CLINTON — Voting along racial lines, the East Feliciana Parish School Board declined Thursday to seek an end to a 47-year-old desegregation lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, who has jurisdiction in the 1965 case, issued a directive June 4 requiring the plaintiffs to spell out any issues they believe are outstanding in the case.
The board met with attorney Bob Hammonds behind closed doors to discuss seeking an end to the litigation, but the members reconvened to vote 8-4 “to leave it like it is.”
Black board members Michael Bradford, Olivia Harris, Melvin Hollins, Richard Terrell, Debra Spurlock Haynes, Rhonda Matthews, Broderick Brooks and Rufus Nesbitt voted for the motion.
White members Mitch Harrell, Beth Dawson, Paul Kent and Ben Cupit dissented.
Meanwhile, Nelson Dan Taylor, the plaintiffs’ attorney, alleges that the state voucher plan for charter schools raises the issue of whether the state “is engaged in a new scheme of denying equal protection to black students” through a “scheme that allows funding to support white students avoiding racial desegregation in public schools.”
“The state of Louisiana and its Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are not innocents in the opposition to desegregation of public schools,” Taylor wrote in response to Brady’s directive.
Taylor’s position paper alleges that “Stillman Institute” in Clinton remains a haven for white students avoiding desegregated schools and suggests any public funding to allow students to attend the school is unconstitutional.
The school, actually called Silliman Institute, has not applied to participate in the state voucher program.
Taylor also wrote that the charter school and voucher laws “allows circumvention of elected boards to administer public schools,” which he said is a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
The plaintiffs also believe continued court monitoring is necessary and the board should pay attorneys fees, the filing says.
Other issues handled by the board included:
TAX EXEMPTION: The board voted 7-5 to exempt six parish firms that repair industrial equipment from charging and collecting the board’s 2 percent sales tax on machinery brought in from other states for repair.
Kent’s motion included a provision that company representatives meet with school and Police Jury representatives to work on a mutually beneficial relationship.
Harris, Kent, Hollins, Bradford, Haynes, Terrell and Nesbitt voted for the motion, while Dawson, Harrell, Cupit, Matthews and Brooks voted against it. At least three of the dissenting members had expressed support for the exemption without conditions.
The jury and board granted a three-year exemption in 2007, but the agreement expired without anyone realizing it until recently.
The business owners said their out-of-state competitors do not collect sales taxes on repairs and clients of the local companies refuse to pay it.
State law allows East Feliciana to waive the tax. Both taxing agencies are seeking legal opinions on whether the companies should pay for taxes that were not exempt for two years.