Avoyelles School Board expected to file motion to dismiss deseg case

Committee endorses measure; Riddle believes all hurdles cleared

A 50-year-old desegregation suit against the Avoyelles Parish School Board may soon be dismissed since all obvious hurdles have been, or will be, cleared before the board meets this Tuesday.

The board’s Executive Committee adopted a resolution at its Sept. 25 meeting asking the full board to instruct District Attorney Charles Riddle to file a motion in federal court to dismiss the desegregation case, currently referred to as Holmes v. Avoyelles Parish School Board.

Superintendent Blaine Dauzat said he had spoken with Riddle about the matter “and it is time to push forward” with dismissing the case.

Riddle said he agrees and hopes the full board adopts the resolution.

“If the board passes it Tuesday, I will file it later Tuesday night,” Riddle said.

Riddle said plaintiff Allen Holmes has given his consent to close the case. He is anticipating the Justice Department to add its consent by Monday, the day before the board meeting where the resolution will be voted on.

After the motion to dismiss is filed, the judge’s ruling could be issued within a week.

“You may not even have to appear in court,” Riddle noted. The desegregation case was initially filed in 1968, resulting in the merging of previously all-black and all-white schools.

The case was revitalized in 1988 when Holmes intervened on grounds there was unequal access to education within the school system and there were too many predominantly one-race schools.

U.S. District Judge Nauman Scott issued a desegregation order that consolidated 14 high schools into three. That ruling, which the media dubbed the “Dreaded Scott Decision,” allowed some of the schools to keep their elementary grades but closed several schools.

Eight years ago, the School Board began a concerted effort to attain “unitary status” and end the federal court’s involvement in the school system.

“Unitary” simply means there is only one school system for all students, as opposed to the previous “dual” school system in which students were segregated by law according to race, which created one school system for whites and a separate one for blacks.


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