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UNITARY: Parties in Tangi deseg case file "Final Agreement"

UNITARY: Parties in Tangi deseg case file "Final Agreement"

Author: Action News 17/Thursday, September 26, 2019/Categories: Front Page, Latest Stories

PHOTO: Tangipahoa Parish School Board members introduce a resolution Thursday to authorize attorneys to file a joint motion before the U.S. Eastern District Court asking for unitary status in their longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation lawsuit.

AMITE---On Thursday afternoon, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board made history, adopting the recommendation of attorneys in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation case and authorizing a jointly-filed consent agreement in the 54-year-old case.

On a motion by Rose Dominguez and a second by Brett Duncan, the board endorsed the recommendation of their chief negotiation attorney Ashley Bass, who appeared before the board side-by-side with plaintiff’s lead negotiation counsel Gideon Carter, to seek approval for the joint motion which will be filed with the federal court electronically this afternoon.

The vote left the room speechless for a few moments before many in the audience rose to their feet and began clapping in an applause that echoed throughout the board room. Afterwards, Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller approached the Board table, offering congratulations to School Superintendent Melissa Stilley and the entire board. Many other local officials and community leaders followed suit, lingering to talk with one another long after the historic vote had been cast.

The motion for unitary status represents a mutual consent agreement between the opposing sides in a desegregation case. Their motion indicates that the district has complied with the federal court orders in six areas of operations: extra-curricular activities, transportation, physical facilities, faculty assignment, staff assignment, and student assignment. These areas, known as “green factors” in the case are gauged independent of each other and collectively to determine if there are opportunities for racial discrimination within the operations of the school system.

Prior to Thursday’s motion, the district had successfully proven court compliance in the areas of extra-curricular activities and transportation. The district had also gained provisional unitary status in physical facilities and staff assignment while working through the implementation phase in the areas of teacher and student assignment. Under the agreement signed Thursday, the district commits to continued monitoring in all of these areas with annual reports to be submitted to the federal court through the close of the 2021-22 school year.

The 34-page “Final Agreement” outlines the scope of the work the district will continue in good faith to maintain a unitary school system. The document addresses the issues of student assignment, truancy, discipline, school culture, staffing, teacher assignment, facilities, and the ongoing role of the Court Compliance Officer, the role of the Chief Equity Officer, as well as plans for a fairness hearing and plaintiff’s rights going forward into this process.

“It is the desire of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to not merely promise our continued operation of an equitable system, but to demonstrate our ability and commitment to such operations through the implementation of each and every element of (the) Final Agreement,” the board resolved following a presentation from the lead negotiation attorneys for both sides of the case.

After the meeting, veteran board members Rose Dominguez and Brett Duncan reminisced with Board President Sandra Bailey Simmons about the many events that had taken place along the road to this vote. Dominguez dabbed her eyes at times, talking about the significance of this day, and Duncan paused on more than one occasion, obviously affected by the magnitude of the moment.

The Final Agreement will now be submitted to U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle for court approval.


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