The judge will hear arguments on Wednesday on the closure of Pointe-aux-Chênes primary school
A federal judge is due to hear arguments on Wednesday over whether officials at the Terrebonne parish school acted correctly when they closed the Pointe-aux-Chênes elementary school earlier this year.
The school board voted 6-3 in April to send students to Montegut Elementary, about four miles away, starting this fall. Officials cited declining enrollment and cost savings through the consolidation of resources.
A dozen parents filed a lawsuit on June 11 in US District Court in New Orleans, ask a judge to keep the school open offering French language courses Native American and Cajun families in the small community have spoken for generations.
“The decision to close the PAC elementary school and to refuse the establishment of the requested French immersion program continues a pattern and practice of discrimination against Amerindian and Cajun children,” the lawsuit alleges.
Officials said they had not determined what to do with the building now that it is closed. About a hundred students attended elementary in Pointe-aux-Chênes before closing. At the time, Montegut elementary school had 143 students.
The school board had asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to dismiss the lawsuit, but it allowed the case to continue in an order issued on November 2.
Barbier dismissed five of the six legal violations alleged by parents, including allegations that the board violated state laws by denying parents’ request to convert the school into an immersion program French.
But the judge cleared the case after finding that the parents had made “plausible” claims that the council had violated Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Law of 1964. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funds.
Barbier notes that the lawsuit alleges that the board of directors voted to close the school despite:
Testimony on its importance for Amerindian children.
A letter from experts supporting the need for a school that reflects the culture in Pointe-aux-Chênes.
A commitment from state officials to provide $ 1 million to keep the school open.
The judge also noted that, according to the plaintiffs, the Pointe-aux-Chênes elementary school was eligible for federal funds for Indian education and other programs.
“No report, analysis or evaluation, say the complainants, has been provided as to why the school board proposed to close the school, and no member of the school board has explained why the school should be closed. during the vote, ”Barbier said in his decision. let the matter go.
Barbier noted that the school board “seemed to ignore comments from the community,” and the judge found the plaintiffs’ allegations of discrimination to be “plausible.”
Superintendent of Schools Philip Martin and School Board Chairman Gregory Harding are also named as defendants. They are represented by Stanwood Duval from Duval, Funderburk, Sundbery, Richard & Watkins from Houma.
The plaintiffs are represented by Louis Koerner of the New Orleans law firm Koerner.
This article originally appeared on Le Courrier: A federal judge will hear arguments on the closure of Pointe-aux-Chênes elementary school