FBISD drops legal actions linked to graves on school site

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Thursday, February 21, 2019
Human remains will stay where they are for now
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The bodies of nearly 100 slaves discovered during construction will stay where they are for now.

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Bend ISD will no longer pursue legal action for a school construction site where the graves of 95 freed slaves were uncovered nearly a year ago.

On Thursday, the school district said its board of trustees voted unanimously to give the superintendent the power to negotiate with Fort Bend County on establishing an alternate site for James Reese Career and Technical Center, while also preserving the historic grave site.

The discovery was made on a parcel of land off Highway 90.

FBISD noted the board's decision mirrored one taken by the county's commissioners court over the last week.

The board president, Jason Burdine, released this statement after the decision:

"I am proud of the decision the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees made during Monday's Board meeting to authorize the District to begin negotiations with Fort Bend County to find a solution on how best to memorialize the Sugar Land 95.

Fort Bend ISD agrees that the Sugar Land 95 need to be memorialized at the site of discovery. We have embraced the offer made by Fort Bend County to work with us to create an appropriate memorial for the victims of the convict leasing system. We are hopeful and optimistic that by working together with the County these bodies can be reinterred so they can rest in peace. Should we encounter any obstacles to this solution, we will look to the State of Texas, other elected officials, as well as lawmakers, to assist us in finding a solution.

We appreciate and welcome the County's recent commitment to work with the District toward a solution that preserves the story and memory of those buried on this historic site. In order to show our good faith and commitment to working toward a comprehensive solution, the District will halt all further court action while we explore all available options with the County. The District's plan to build the portion of the building that is within the cemetery area has been cancelled.

We are confident that our partnership with the County will result in a solution that allows the historic cemetery to operate by a legally authorized entity.

We look forward to working with local elected officials and community leaders to implement this solution as quickly as possible and keep our promise to honor and educate the public and future generations about the 95 souls who were previously lost to history."

In the months after the graves were discovered last April, a court battle took place between the school district and historians who wanted to preserve the site.

The bodies were found, each in its own wooden casket. Researchers believe the bodies are those of freed slaves forced to work in convict labor camps.

The video above is from a previous story.