Judge rebuffs move to modify Tangipahoa desegregation decree

The federal judge overseeing Tangipahoa Parish’s decades-old desegregation case has denied the School Board’s request for a status conference to discuss possible modifications to the court-ordered desegregation plan.

U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, of New Orleans, instead directed the attorneys to meet in an effort to reach a consensus “on issues of concern including possible modifications to standing orders/decrees before a status conference with the court is scheduled,” according to an order filed into the court record Wednesday.

Lemelle warned the parties, however, that “any proposed major modification of the longstanding consent decree having the potential effect of nullifying desegregation of the school system and contrary to clear legal precedent will not be tolerated.”

The School Board voted Jan. 22 to request the status conference to discuss proposed changes to the plan, including clustering schools, creating regional attendance zones and increasing the number of magnet programs throughout the parish.

Board member Brett Duncan has said the proposed changes would allow the system to desegregate the district’s schools more quickly and more effectively, without increased taxes, dramatically different attendance zones or the three new elementary schools required under the current plan.