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Judge dismisses Halifax merger lawsuit

In a document filed Tuesday, a Superior Court judge dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit against the Halifax County Board of Commissioners that attempted to force the Board to merge the three school districts in Halifax County:  Halifax County Public Schools, Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and Weldon City Schools.

Judge Russell Duke stated in his dismissal that “no law supports the Plaintiffs’ claim,” and goes on to say that they they gave no claim that funding for the three Halifax County school boards was “constitutionally inadequate.”

The suit was brought by the Coalition for Education and Economic Security (CEES), the Halifax County branch of the NAACP, and three parents and guardians of children in Halifax County public schools. They alleged that the Board of Commissioners maintained “an inefficient three-district system that is a relic of the Jim Crow era, divides the children of Halifax County into the ‘good’ district and the ‘bad’ districts along racial lines, and fails to meet the fundamental educational mandates recognized by the North Carolina Supreme Court and established by the North Carolina Constitution,” according to a fact sheet handed out by the groups when the lawsuit was announced.

The judge denied the plaintiffs’ assertion.

“The Plaintiffs cite no provision of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina that is a clear foundation for nor offer any compelling authority supportive of the proposition that it is the constitutional responsibility of the Defendant to implement and maintain a public education system for Halifax County,” he said in the dismissal.

Halifax County Manager Tony Brown said in an email that the decision was a welcome one.

“I am pleased with the outcome and I hope the community can come together in addressing our needs in improving our education system here in Halifax County,” he said.

David Harvey, head of the Halifax County chapter of the NAACP, said the decision was disappointing but not unexpected.

“We’re in the business of civil rights and social justice. The NAACP has been taking on these kinds of cases for many, many years,” he said, adding later, “As an organization, we’re used to long battles.”

Harvey said he is fairly certain the plaintiffs will appeal the ruling, but a firm decision hasn’t been made yet.

For more background on this lawsuit, read our coverage here, here, here and here

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.