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Case:

Thomas v. School Board St. Martin Parish

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8/17/65
Education | Desegregation

On June 24, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of LDF’s clients, African-American students in the St. Martin Parish school system.

The court affirmed a lower court’s ruling denying the motions of the school board of St. Martin Parish, which claimed the long-standing Louisiana school desegregation case had been dismissed decades ago. 

The case originated in 1965, when NAACP LDF challenged the school board’s dual system of education by which African-American and white students were educated separately. Subsequently, the District Court found that the School Board’s operations violated the constitutional rights of African American students and the case entered a remedial phase.

Today’s critical ruling comes during the 60th anniversary year of Brown v. Board of Education and on the heels of community angst surrounding  school district policies that continue to negatively impact African American students and that result in racial disparities.  LDF may now continue to work to ensure that all students enrolled in the St. Martin Parish Schools have access to equal educational opportunities. 

Notably, although the school board argued that the school system was no longer under the court’s jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit today rejected that claim. The three-judge panel was not persuaded by the School Board’s unorthodox interpretation of governing case law used to support its contention.  Judge Priscilla Owen authored the unanimous opinion. 

LDF was joined by co-counsel Gideon Carter of Baton Rouge, LA in challenging the School Board’s assertions.  LDF attorney Leticia Smith-Evans presented oral argument on behalf of African American plaintiffs in July 2013.

Today, LDF continues to advocate for equal educational opportunities for African American and all students, with a docket of nearly 100 school desegregation cases nationwide.