Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Who is this guy, G. G. Carter

One of the burning questions nagging some of the parents involved in the Jefferson Parish desegregation process is, "who is Gideon Carter representing?"

Well, in the open meeting of the Community Task Force July 28th, 2009, Mr. Carter firmly stated that he has been hired to represent Lena Vern Dandridge, a list of other families in the original class suit and all the "black children" within the Jefferson Parish Public School System. In his effort to present the evidence for who his clients are he distributed a few copies of the original complaint which was filed in the US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana by attorneys Lionel R. Collins, A.P. Tureaud, A.M. Trudeau and Ernest N Morial and served to Jefferson Parish School Board and Mr. Paul J. Solis, Superintendent on July 31, 1964.

While reading the document it appealed to me to restate the actual statement in the document that spells out the responsibility that Mr. Carter has accepted:

"Plaintiffs brings this action as a class suit pursuant to Rule 23(a)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on behalf of themselves and on behalf of the other Negro children and their parents in Jefferson Parish, similarly situated, all of whom are affected by the policy, practice, custom and usage complained of herein as more fully appears. The members of the class on behalf of which plaintiffs sue are so numerous as to make it impractical to bring them all individually before this Court, but there are common questions of law and fact involved, common grievances arising out of common wrongs and common relief is sought for each of the plaintiffs individually and for each member of the class. Plaintiffs fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class."

Are we to assume the common grievances and wrongs are the same in 2009 as they were in 1964? Some are...this is shameful. Others are not...our "Attorney" should know what these are. Let us hear your voices. You may write them here or send your hand written letters to me to pass along to Mr. Carter:

Dr. Marion L. Carroll
P.O. Box 68
Harvey LA 70059

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A little knowledge

On the left of this page you will notice a list of resources. These are just a few online resources that describe events in the history of racial desegregation in public education. Parents we need to be informed of the history behind our efforts. Dig in here and please recommend other resources by posting them in the comments below.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jeremiah would have been proud.

The organizational meeting of the Jeremiah Group lead by Jackie Jones and Carl Weber at The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Avondale was convene at 7 pm on Thursday, July 23. After prayer and introductions the 50 plus in attendance broke up into 5 groups of 10 to opened their hearts to strangers in an attempt to air concerns and issues that affected them personally while at the same time establishing relationships with others who have had similar experiences. Jeremiah will monitor and facilitate research into these issues as they are developed through continued "House Meetings" between individuals in their home institutions and groups over the next few weeks. After action plans are developed with Jeremiah, public officials and others will be called and pressured to embrace these community needs with changes in policy, capital investment and law enforcement.

Heart wrenching stories of excessive crime, indifference to violence, improper procedures in education and social services abounded at this night's meeting. If Jeremiah has as great an impact on these as it has had on improving the availability and accessibility of homes for first time homebuyers then a change is on the way!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rallying the forces!

Our first meeting was held on the Eastbank and Westbank at Mt. Hermon and Providence Churches in Avondale and River Ridge respectively. Turn out was low but we managed to engage a the small group of parents who see the need to press Gideon Carter for dialogue on the subject of school attendance, districts, and adequate school preparation. We received some local news attention which was published by WDSU.

We have also gained the attention of the Jeremiah Group. This is an organization of religious institutions with enough support and influence to change political policies and protect the disenfranchised from being overlooked and abused.

Today at 7 pm there will be an organizational meeting of the Jeremiah Group at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church at 1419 4th Street in Westwego. Please come by, bring your neighbors and friends and join in the effort to regain your power within your community.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chris Kirkham's excellent summation.

Civil rights struggle lives on in La.'s public schools
Posted by Chris Kirkham, West Bank bureau July 28, 2007

September morning in 1965, Lena Vern Dandridge and a handful of black girls climbed on to Bus No. 75 for their first-ever school day with white students at Riverdale High School in Jefferson.

The studious 10th-grader had professional aspirations -- maybe she'd work in an office building some day -- but her father felt John H. Martyn High, the all-black school she was slated to attend, would not adequately prepare her.

So a year earlier, and with the backing of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation, her father sued to integrate the Jefferson Parish public schools.

On federal court documents, Dandridge's name appeared at the top, followed by 15 other black students.

"At the time I didn't pay much attention to it. I was a kid, I was just there to learn," said Dandridge, who now goes by Dandridge-Houston. "Looking back on it, it wasn't just education from textbooks. It was cultural."

Almost 43 years later, her name is still on the federal court docket, as the desegregation case against Jefferson Parish remains unresolved.

Across Louisiana, almost two-thirds of all public school districts still fall under federal court supervision to ensure a racial mix in schools.

Judges monitor attendance zones, busing policies, racial breakdowns and where new schools are built, but settling the lawsuits is up to each school board or plaintiff, in the absence of federal or state oversight.

Vestiges of the civil-rights-era South, many of the lingering cases go quiet for decades, as original plaintiffs die off or move elsewhere.

"People just go about their day-to-day activities," said Paul Baier, a professor at the Louisiana State University Law Center who specializes in civil rights law. "If nobody's continuing to ignite fires or scream about it, people won't remember."

But what the sheer volume of open desegregation cases means is up for debate. Resurrecting and closing the long-standing cases often stirs up dormant racial tensions in communities and is a time-consuming process for school boards.

And the track record for resolved cases is patchy: many of the districts declared fully integrated in recent years emerged from the lawsuits only after a painful process in which schools are shuttered and middle-class families flee to private academies.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, home to the longest-standing desegregation case in U.S. history until earlier this month, rigid, crosstown busing policies alienated the community and prevented much-needed tax increases for new schools.

State and national research has shown that, despite making great strides in desegregation since the civil rights era, levels of segregation have been on the rise since the mid-1980s. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing race-based student assignments will raise new questions for school districts that emerge from federal court supervision.

Many researchers and lawyers say the legacy of unresolved school desegregation cases points to the inherent challenges of social engineering, even four decades after the journey began.

"In addressing the problem of desegregation in American society, we came up with the idea that schools were the places we could do that, where we could reweave the fabric of society," said Carl Bankston, a Tulane University sociologist who is one of the foremost researchers on school desegregation in Louisiana. "Maybe it's not that Louisiana schools have a long way to go, but that schools are a reflection of the greater problems in society."

At age 57, Dandridge-Houston has seen two full generations of her family enroll in Jefferson Parish public schools.

Her two grandchildren still quiz her about "the olden times," when she was one of the first to go to integrated schools.

She recounts the memories of that sophomore year in 1965 as if they happened last week: the name of her first bus driver, Walter Richardson; the whispered jeers and insults in gym class, "You're out of your element, baby," "Why don't you go back to where you came from?"; the cautious band of teachers standing watch in the mornings, waiting for signs of trouble.

About a month before she started school, her father, the Rev. Arthur Dandridge, a prominent local minister, took her on the 20-minute drive from their Little Farms home to catch her first glimpse of Riverdale High School, an all-girls school at the time.

"I remember saying, 'How does my daddy think I'm going to go to this white school on Jefferson Highway?'¤" Dandridge-Houston said. "I was like, 'You've lost your mind. Daddy has cracked for sure.' "

At the time Arthur Dandridge and lawyers A.M. Trudeau and Lionel Collins initiated the Jefferson case, there was a flurry of similar desegregation lawsuits across Louisiana.

By the 1970s, the state's racially divided past would force nearly every public school district in Louisiana to fall under federal mandates to integrate.

The 1896 Supreme Court case that set the doctrine of "separate but equal," Plessy v. Ferguson, originated on a passenger railcar in New Orleans. The state had enacted laws to resist school integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Every school system in the New Orleans area was under a court order by the 1970s. St. Charles, St. Bernard and New Orleans schools have emerged from their orders.

Public schools in Plaquemines, St. Tammany, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes remain under federal supervision, according to the U.S. Justice Department, which keeps a list of some desegregation cases.

In some cases, school boards reached settlements with plaintiffs decades in the past, but never officially pursued unitary status. The Justice Department lists the St. Tammany Parish case as still open, but board attorney Harry Pastuszek said the district for years has operated as if it were under unitary status.

He said he will look into the history of the original case, now archived in Fort Worth, Texas, to see if the district was actually declared unitary.

Seeking an end to the cases also calls up memories of the underfinanced, overlooked black schools that existed before the court orders were in place. Kovach's proposal last fall to seek unitary status sparked a series of contentious hearings, where black community leaders referred to the desegregation suit as a "sacred" document.

A controversy over hiring practices in Tangipahoa Parish schools, particularly the decision not to hire a black head football coach at Amite High School, has put that school board back in federal court with the NAACP in recent months.

And the Lafayette Parish School Board was released from federal court supervision last year, only after the district was forced to close several historically black elementary schools.

"The changes forced on school districts to achieve unitary status become emotional issues within the community," said Carl LaCombe, president of the Lafayette Parish School Board. "For districts that haven't tried it yet, I'm sure those board members read the news, also. They're saying to themselves, 'Do I want to put my community through this?' "

As the clock continues to tick on many desegregation cases across the state, experts warn that over the years cases have had an unintended consequence: Middle-class whites and blacks flee integrated public school systems after fears of declining quality of education.

New Orleans public schools were one of the first systems in the state to be released from court supervision, after administrators shifted attendance zones to maintain balance in schools. But by the time the district was released, white students were leaving in droves for public schools in surrounding parishes. By the mid-1980s, low-income, black students made up 90 percent of the district.

"If this was all about desegregating schools, it didn't work," said Stephen Caldas, a desegregation expert at Hofstra University in New York who formerly taught at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. "The consequences were pretty much the opposite of what we want: The middle class left, took all of their social capital and financial capital, and moved to the middle-class parishes that surround them."

East Baton Rouge Parish schools were released from federal court supervision a few weeks ago in a case that dated back to 1956. But many critics have said the long federal case there strayed from its intended goal.

During the intervening 51 years, a federal judge recused himself, and two parish towns, Zachary and Baker, formed their own school districts in protest. Schools fell into disrepair; no new school taxes were passed for nearly three decades, from the late '60s until 1998.

Former Superintendent Gary Mathews, who ran the district from 1995 through 2001, publicly said conditions in the schools were "comparable to that of some Third World countries."

Up until 1981, little was done to integrate the schools, so a federal judge stepped in with a sweeping plan to bus students and combine many schools.

The decision caused white families, who at the time made up 60 percent of the student population, to largely abandon the system. Since the late 1970s, the number of white students declined from nearly 42,000 to fewer than 8,000, and private school enrollment has surged. Black students make up nearly 80 percent of the district's population.

"The very children for whom the desegregation order was intended turned out to be those who were harmed the most by the atrocious forced-busing plan that was in place," said Mathews, who now works as a superintendent in Williamsburg, Va. "My view is the courts had the right motive, but they were employing the wrong means."

Jefferson Parish schools still have years to go before they achieve unitary status. In March, the school system revised its federal order to address inequalities, and the system has until December to sign off on the plan with plaintiffs' attorneys.

"These cases were never intended for you to be under these court orders forever," said Grant, Jefferson Parish's School Board attorney. "Probably if we could have continued with the attorneys on the other side and continued a dialogue, I think what is happening today would have happened sooner."

The board has employed a community task force to examine minority student and faculty issues and hired attorney Charles Patin of Baton Rouge, who worked to achieve unitary status with the Rapides Parish school system and others across the state.

Patin has encouraged more dialogue between the board and the community to minimize surprises along the way. "That way you're not just out there hitting and missing," he said.

Jefferson also is considering a federal grant program aimed at transforming poor, largely black campuses into magnet schools aimed at attracting a more diverse student body.

But the magnet school proposal has a mixed history. The plan was instrumental in improving deteriorating inner-city Alexandria schools in Rapides Parish. Yet sometimes the schools are accused of creating a two-tier system, where white and black students remain separated within school walls because they attend different classes.

Rapides Parish School Board member Herbert Dixon, who is black, was initially skeptical of abandoning the court order, but he embraced the plan after seeing the federal money transform underperforming schools.

"When we made the commitment with these inner-city school concepts, we let the community play a part in the things they wanted to see," Dixon said. "If everybody keeps their word, everybody puts the right foot forward, you're not going to have the plaintiff class kicking and screaming."

Chris Kirkham can be reached at ckirkham@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3786.

School-suit parent blasts lawyer

Friday, July 17, 2009
By Jenny Hurwitz
West Bank bureau

Citing mounting concerns about inadequate representation in the Jefferson Parish public school system's desegregation process, a group of black parents, teachers and community members is meeting this weekend to assess the efforts of the plaintiffs' attorney in the lawsuit.

Juantina Johnson, a black parent who is organizing two meetings, said she and others were "shocked" to discover that attorney Gideon Carter of Baton Rouge was supposed to be representing people like her, as well as all black teachers, administrators and students in the district.

As the plaintiffs' attorney, Carter represents the interests of all African-Americans in the school system, although he generally consults with a select group on litigation matters.

"Our outrage comes from the fact we didn't know he was our attorney, nor have we actively been involved in the case," said Johnson, who lives in Westwego. "We want a voice in these decisions. If someone is going to represent us, then they should ask us what it is we want."

Johnson already has collected about 200 signatures from parents and district employees who share her general concerns about the direction of the school system under the desegregation order. She has forwarded the signatures to Carter and to U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt, who is overseeing the lawsuit, she said.

Johnson said parents are still upset with the boundary changes and new regulations prohibiting students from attending schools outside their home attendance zones. She also said some parents felt they had no say in the district's decision to reconfigure boundary lines on the West Bank, meant to ease overcrowding at Catherine Strehle Elementary in Avondale.

If Carter is unwilling to work with them, Johnson said she could ask Engelhardt to allow her to intervene, making her group a third party to the lawsuit. She is also considering asking the judge to grant her group the right to replace Carter with another attorney, she said. She hopes to discuss these issues at the meetings, to be held on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Carter said he will be unable to attend because of a prior conflict.

"They didn't ask if it was convenient for me to be there," Carter said. "When I talked to them, I let them know I couldn't be there. Apparently they're going to hold the meeting without me."

Carter also questioned how Johnson and other parents could technically go about removing him as the plaintiffs' attorney in the case.

"They're not the only interest I represent in the litigation," Carter said. "I represent the interest of students as well. So I don't know what authority they have."

Through the desegregation process, the district is seeking to balance all educational services for black and white students throughout the parish. To achieve that aim, the order ushered in a number of sweeping changes, including new attendance zones, teacher transfers and facilities improvements in areas that had been neglected previously.

Carter said he invited Johnson and others to voice their concerns at upcoming community meetings, to be held later this summer by the district's desegregation task force. Formed in 2006 when revisiting the desegregation issue first came to light, the task force, comprised of black educators and community leaders, functions as a liaison between the black community and the school district.

Carter also cited his attendance at a series of public forums held last year before the order was approved. Since the start of the process, he has regularly consulted with the task force and certain members of the black community, including Lena Vern Dandridge-Houston, whose father filed the lawsuit that paved the way for the district's original 1971 desegregation order.

"If they have issues, I want to hear their complaints," he said. "But you can't just schedule a meeting and expect that I'm going to show up at your convenience."

The meetings Saturday are open only to black parents, school system employees and members of the community, who are considered plaintiffs under the order, Johnson said.

The first meeting will be held at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Avondale at noon. The second, at Providence Baptist Church in River Ridge, starts at 5 p.m.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Are You Familiar with “The Dandridge Desegregation Consent Decree”?

Were you aware that Attorney Gideon Carter is the attorney who represents the black parents, black teachers, and black administrators of Jefferson Parish School System?

Many black parents are concerned about the quality of education their children receive in the Jefferson Parish School System and believe that it is important that we have more input on the decisions made on behalf of our children.

“The Black Parents of Jefferson Parish School System” have requested a meeting with OUR attorney Gideon Carter to discuss the problems in the school system and to get a detailed update on the status of the desegregation lawsuit.

Information meetings have been scheduled for July 18, 2009 and we have requested the presence of attorney Gideon Carter. Black parents whose students attend Jefferson Parish School System (and interested black teachers and administrators) are asked to join us in attending these important meetings so that we may discuss and share our concerns.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

12:00 pm: Mount Hermon Baptist Church

3512 Hwy 90W, Avondale, Louisiana. (West bank)

5:00 pm: Providence Baptist Church

11509 Jefferson Hwy, River Ridge, Louisiana. (East bank)

If you have questions, please communicate by commenting below. The organizes will recieve and respond to your questions and concerns.