GONZALES — The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a district court ruling in favor of the Ascension Parish School Board in a lawsuit filed by a parent seven years ago over redistricting changes adopted in response to population growth.
Darrin K. Lewis Sr., a black Gonzales parent, challenged the plan, which redrew attendance lines moving a number of students from the Dutchtown High and St. Amant High “feeder zones” of elementary and middle schools to the East Ascension High feeder zone.
In his lawsuit filed in 2008, Lewis, the father of two children assigned to the East Ascension High feeder zone, alleged that the redistricting plan would maintain a disproportionately large non-white minority student population, result in more at-risk students attending East Ascension High, and fail to provide minority students with the same educational opportunities as students at Dutchtown High and St. Amant High.
The late U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson dismissed the lawsuit two years prior to his death in 2011. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it.
After a three-day bench trial in February 2014, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson, of the U.S. Middle District Court, based in Baton Rouge, asked for post-trial arguments from both sides and ruled in April 2014 for the School Board, concluding that the plan, on the face of it, was race neutral; “that the plaintiff had failed to prove the redistricting plan treated similarly situated students of different races differently and that, even if he had made his threshold showing, he failed to establish that the plan had a discriminatory effect.”
On Tuesday, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Jackson’s ruling.