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Local community groups and parents sue Halifax County Board of Commissioners

According to a press release, today as children in Halifax County begin a new school year, the Coalition for Education and Economic Security (CEES), the Halifax County Branch of the NAACP, and three parents and guardians of children attending public schools in Halifax County filed suit against the Halifax County Board of Commissioners in Silver et al. v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners, to vindicate the North Carolina constitutional right of all Halifax County’s schoolchildren to the opportunity for a sound basic education.

The press release notes that under North Carolina’s state constitution, and as affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court in the Leandro cases, the board is required to provide an educational system that ensures the opportunity for a sound basic education to every child in Halifax County. Instead, the press release says, it maintains and funds an inefficient three-district system that divides our children into “good” and “bad” school districts along racial lines, and creates an insurmountable obstacle to academic achievement and opportunity that the North Carolina Constitution requires.

The press release continues saying the constitutional violation resulting from the board’s deliberate preservation of this unsustainable, three-district system serving a declining population of less than 7,000 students manifests in at-risk students’ blocked access to educational facilities, high quality teachers and administrators, educational and learning materials, and curricular and extra-curricular opportunities. Most acutely, through its tax distribution method, the county’s segregated system imposes a stigma of racial inferiority upon black students, undermining their academic achievement and frustrating their access to quality educational resources. The obstacle created by the county’s maintenance of these three districts impedes the opportunity to a sound basic education for all County schoolchildren, the overwhelming majority of whom meet the Leandro definition of at-risk. 

“Our children have waited too long to receive the education that they are entitled to,” states Rebecca Copeland, chairperson of CEES.  “Perpetuating an education system with three racially identifiable and inequitably resourced school districts undermines the opportunity to a sound basic education guaranteed by our state constitution.”

“We stand together today to advocate for all students in Halifax County,” adds David Harvey, president of the Halifax County NAACP. “Experience has shown that consolidating these three districts is an essential first step toward ending the unacceptable disparities in educational opportunities which reinforce the vestiges of racial stigma which is the legacy of segregation.”

The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Civil Rights, the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Latham & Watkins LLP. 

The press release says CEES is a diverse grassroots community association that has been working across Halifax County for several years to address the disparities in access to educational opportunities between the county’s three school districts. Rebecca Copeland the chairperson of CEES. The Halifax County Branch of the NAACP is the local affiliate of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated to seeking justice for all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The Halifax NAACP has long advocated for the Board of Commissioners to address the educational disparities in the county. David Harvey is the president of the Halifax County NAACP. LaTonya Silver, Brenda Sledge, and Felicia Scott have children that attend public schools in Halifax County.

We have been following the situation in Halifax, noting in July the possibly obstreperous actions of the school board there, and following up in August with some more context on the county schools. We have also been following the State Board of Education’s increased involvement in Halifax Schools. 

More on this lawsuit tomorrow. 

Staff

EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.