Historic St. Helena Parish, Louisiana, Public School Desegregation Case Successfully Resolved
United States Attorney Brandon Fremin for the Middle District of Louisiana and Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice announced today the successful resolution of the oldest current school desegregation case in the State of Louisiana, involving the St. Helena Parish Public School District.
In 1952, Robert Carter and others filed this action asserting that the St. Helena Parish School Board was operating in a racially dual system in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Justice Department subsequently joined the litigation as a plaintiff-intervenor in 1961. The case predated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The Complaint under which this historic lawsuit was commenced was signed by Thurgood Marshall before he was seated on the Supreme Court.
On May 20, 1960, the Court entered an order enjoining the State of Louisiana, including the St. Helena Parish School Board, from excluding African-American students from public schools because of their race. Since then, the U.S. District Court has overseen the school district’s efforts to comply with the 1960 order and further orders mandating the desegregation of its schools. Such oversight would continue until the school district achieved unitary status, a milestone it recently reached.
Judge James J. Brady issued a ruling on April 5, 2016, declaring that St. Helena Parish Public School District had obtained unitary status in all areas except student assignment. On February 15, 2018, all parties to the litigation filed a joint motion seeking dismissal of the action and a declaration that the school district has achieved full unitary status. This morning, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson granted the joint motion, dissolving all injunctions emanating from the action and dismissing the matter with prejudice.
U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin stated, “Today is a historic day for all the people of St. Helena Parish. The road to desegregating our schools has undoubtedly been challenging and marked by great difficulties, but it is a road that had to be traveled, both legally and morally. I commend Chief Judge Jackson and his predecessors, including the late Judges Brady and Parker, as well as the parties and their attorneys, for their collective dedication to this important and historic matter.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division John Gore stated, “We commend the St. Helena Parish School District for satisfying its remaining obligations in this case and ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students. We have been pleased to work with the district to resolve outstanding issues and bring the case to a successful close.”
This matter was handled by Franz Marshall and Christopher Awad of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as well as Assistant United States Attorney John Gaupp, who serves as the Chief of the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office.
Promoting school desegregation and enforcing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.