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LDF Presents Argument in Louisiana Charter School Desegregation Case

6/06/17

St James Parish Louisiana desegregation case

Read the PDF version of our statement here.

NAACP LDF Presents Argument in Louisiana Charter School Desegregation Case

Earlier today, Deuel Ross, Assistant Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that a one-race Louisiana charter school must comply with a comprehensive plan to ensure that students attend racially integrated public schools in St. James Parish, Louisiana.

“The unequivocal lesson taught by decades of research, history, and experience is that separate can never be equal,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “For years, LDF has worked to ensure that all of the children in St. James Parish are offered the opportunity to learn and thrive in racially diverse schools. The presence of a public charter school with a student body that is over 96% African American in a parish with a history and current record of discrimination in education interferes with that work, and delays the day when St. James Parish can guarantee an equal education to all.”   

The school, Greater Grace Charter Academy, is located in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a school district that has struggled to desegregate its traditional public schools for decades. In recent years, the local Black community approached LDF with concerns about the continued existence of three nearly all-Black public elementary schools and discriminatory discipline policies in the parish. Although only 62% of the school district’s student population is Black, the enrollment at the three schools is over 96% Black. In response, LDF helped to negotiate a new desegregation plan, which became effective in January and promises to integrate the parish’s schools and reform the discipline code. That same month, LDF filed briefs in its appeal of a federal district judge’s ruling that Greater Grace could open as yet another virtually one-race school in the parish.

 “At the same time that St. James Parish is implementing a new desegregation plan for its traditional public schools, Greater Grace is operating a charter school that exists as a segregated island unto itself, undermining the latest step in a decades-long effort to integrate St. James Parish schools,” said LDF Assistant Counsel Deuel Ross. “While we are not opposed to charter schools per se, Greater Grace has a legal obligation to provide students with a racially diverse classroom environment.”

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.