Still others, however, acknowledge troubling racial undercurrents in a town where 16 years ago white voters cast most of their ballots for David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who ran for Louisiana governor.
"I've lived here most of my life, and the one thing I can state with absolutely no fear of contradiction is that LaSalle Parish is awash in racism - true racism," a white Pentecostal preacher, Eddie Thompson, wrote in an essay he posted on the Internet. "Here in the piney woods of central Louisiana ... racism and bigotry are such a part of life that most of the citizens do not even recognize it."
The lone black member of the school board agrees.
"There's no doubt about it - whites and blacks are treated differently here," said Melvin Worthington, who was the only school board member to vote against expelling the six black students charged in the beating case. "The white kids should have gotten more punishment for hanging those nooses. If they had, all the stuff that followed could have been avoided."
And the troubles at the high school are not over.
On May 10, police arrested Justin Barker, 17, the white victim of the Dec. 4 beating. He was alleged to have a loaded rifle stashed behind the seat of his pickup truck parked in the school lot. Barker told police he had forgotten it was there and had no intention of using it.
Howard Witt writes for the Chicago Tribune.