Parents Express Frustration and Concerns About Forced Redistricting

Times-Picayune, February 19, 2008

More than 100 parents packed the meeting room at Alfred Bonnabel Academy Magnet High School in Kenner Tuesday to protest a sweeping redistricting plan in Jefferson Parish that aims to strike a better balance between black and white students on every campus.

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Virtually all the speakers were east bank residents concerned about the elimination of permits to allow children to attend schools outside their home districts.

Most were upset and very wary of the proposed consent decree and the redistricting that would ensue, particularly on the east bank.

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Jennifer Todd of Metairie, who has a child at Alice Birney Elementary School in Metairie, told board members her child was having nightmares at home and when she got a permit to change schools to Birney, the nightmares stopped.

“Now you are limiting my ability to put my children somewhere they can be happy and in a productive environment. You are discriminating against all children by not having a school system that allows each child the same opportunities.”

She said that if the board approves the consent order, she will be forced to leave the system and send her child to private school. “You will lose gifted children in the school system,” she said

Rebecca Chenault of Kenner, who has a child at Bissonet Plaza Elementary School, agreed.

“You’re giving me no choice but to take a second mortgage out on my home so I can send him to a private school. Please reconsider this.”

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But board memberes said they had little choice in many areas of the consent decree because it was required by law.

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Another parent questioned why everything was decided behind closed doors. But board member Judy Colgan said the board had no control over that.

“We were bound by a gag order to not talk about this to anyone, to constituents to parents to anyone. That was imposed on us. We didn’t think that up.”

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