A U.S. District Court judge approved Wednesday a modified desegregation plan for Tangipahoa Parish public schools, attorneys for the parties in the case said.
The parties filed a draft of the modified plan Tuesday and U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle gave his verbal agreement during a Wednesday morning status conference, said Charles Patin, the School Board’s attorney.
“I am not unhappy with where we are now,” said Nelson Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case. “It’s far from what either of us first submitted, but I am satisfied with the language.
“The judge made a few minor changes to the document we filed, but that was all,” Patin said.
The judge changed a part of the proposed plan that required certain disputes to be filed with the court within 10 days, Patin said.
The judge also altered a part of the proposed order that dealt with penalties for contempt of court, Patin said. The order will now make explicit that any party charged with contempt would be afforded due process, which could include a court hearing, Patin said.
During an emergency School Board meeting Monday, board member Brett Duncan, who is a lawyer, said the contempt of court language in the plan would make the board “less powerful and more irrelevant.”
The School Board’s attorneys, Patin and Ashley Sandage, told the board that the language was in the plan at the judge’s insistence.
“If the judge ordered it, we shouldn’t put it in our compromise agreement,” Duncan said.
Taylor filed a motion in May asking the judge to find the School Board and Superintendent Mark Kolwe in contempt of court. He also subpoenaed Duncan and fellow board member Sandra Bailey-Simmons to a hearing to determine whether they had acted in contempt as well.
A federal magistrate judge granted a motion to quash the subpoena later that month after Taylor did not file an opposing motion.
The School Board approved the draft of the compromise Monday in a 6-3 vote.
Bailey-Simmons and Andy Anderson joined Duncan in voting against the compromise.
Key aspects of the compromise include:
• Construction of three new elementary schools.
• Renovations at Kentwood High School and O.W. Dillon Elementary in Kentwood.
• Dismissal of earlier motions to sanction the School Board and superintendent and order the board to impose taxes on the parish.
• Clarifies process for resolving disputes and the roles of the system’s chief desegregation officer.