Nearly 48 years after the initial suit was filed, Evangeline Parish was in Federal Court gaining unitary status Thursday, officially having eliminated all aspects of segregation in schools.
“It puts the ball back in our court,” said Wayne Dardeaux, Evangeline Parish School Board President. "There is no more federal oversight and hiding behind the judge's coattails.”
The board had to demonstrate to the plaintiffs, the federal government and the judiciary that the system has met six different aspects of certifiable system desegregation.
“Student assignments is one. Extracurricular activities, transportation, school facilities, like I said, student and teacher assignment,” said Dardeaux. “All of those have to be met before you can get out of federal oversight.”
Board members say they never thought this day would come. The case started in 1969, but has become extremely active in the last decade.
“Since 1997 it’s been a very active case,” said Superintendent Toni Hamlin. “Many things, and many hurdles that we’ve had to go through. We’re very, very pleased with the outcome.”
It wasn’t just a proud day for board members. An alumni of Evangeline Parish Schools has been playing an active role in the case, as the Desegregation Compliance Officer.
“It’s awesome as a student who grew up and attended the schools in Evangeline Parish, to come and see this day where we are we’ve been rid of all vestiges of segregation, it makes me very proud,” said Darwan Lazard.
The system gained partial unitary status in 2009.
At that time major improvements were requested for Ville Platte High School and the further desegregation of students and staff. In total Evangeline Parish spent nearly $6 million to improve facilities at Ville Platte. They will continue to make improvements, parish wide, for students and parents.