Blog | Center for Civil Rights

Communities Impacted by CAFOs Ask EPA to Make A Finding of Discrimination By Year’s End

African American, Latino, and Native American residents of Eastern North Carolina are anxiously awaiting help from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their decades-long struggle to resist the adverse impacts of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) disproportionately concentrated in their communities.  In September 2014, groups representing those residents, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) and the NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), joined with Waterkeeper Alliance in filing a complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) with EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  The complaint alleges that DEQ’s permitting and oversight of swine CAFOs has a racially discriminatory impact on black, Latino and American Indian North Carolinians. 

OCR began its investigation of the complaint in February 2015.  This past October, 20 impacted residents traveled to Washington DC to deliver a petition signed by over 95,000 people from across the country urging EPA investigators to come to eastern North Carolina  and see the impacts for themselves.  The residents met with OCR and with staff of North Carolina legislators, told them about the unbearable stench and pollution from the open pits of hog waste and the fields where the waste is sprayed; the infestation of buzzards, flies and other disease vectors; and the broad range of other ways these operations damage their health and ruin their quality of life.  In response, OCR investigators travelled to the state and observed firsthand the impacts on these communities in mid-November. Over the last two and a half years, the complainants, represented by the Center and Earthjustice, have provided OCR with reams of documents and data (including over a decade’s worth of scientific research led by recently deceased Dr. Steve Wing of UNC’s School of Public Health), as well as sworn declarations from many impacted residents, which support the complaint’s allegations.

The community members are pleading with EPA to make a finding of discrimination before the end of 2016.


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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Thu. December 1, 2016 12:40 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

A Sound Basic Education—Exhibit 1: Student Access to Certified, Well-Trained Teachers in Wayne County Public Schools

The above graph tracks educational outcomes and the use of substitute teachers in Wayne County Public Schools
The above graph tracks educational outcomes and the use of substitute teachers in Wayne County Public Schools' nine middle schools during the 2015-16 school year.

Almost 20 years ago, the North Carolina Supreme Court held in the landmark case of Leandro v. State that every child in our state has a constitutional right to “the opportunity for a sound basic education.” In defining a sound basic education, the Court looked at the educational resources that school districts make available to their students, including access to effective teachers. In the follow-up Leandro II decision, the Court re-emphasized the importance of quality teachers, holding that a sound basic education calls for “every classroom [to] be staffed with a competent, certified, well-trained teacher.”

Student access to certified, well-trained teachers often differs dramatically from school to school however—and far too often depends upon a school’s racial composition. In concluding that racially segregated schools “may fail to provide the full panoply of benefits that K-12 schools can offer,” the U.S. Department of Education’s Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools specifically highlighted that segregated schools struggle to attract effective teachers and often have higher teacher turnover rates.

In the Wayne County Public Schools (WCPS) Central (Goldsboro High) attendance area, the connection between segregation and access to certified, well-trained teachers, is readily apparent. Wayne County serves an overall student population that is 34.9% African American. However, African American students represent between 87.5% and 92.6% of students in all Goldsboro area schools. During the 2014-15 school year, teachers with three years or less of experience accounted for 33.3% of teachers at Goldsboro High and 42.5% of teachers at Dillard Middle, the second- and third-highest percentages of such inexperienced teachers across WCPS. That same year, Central Attendance area schools accounted for three of the four highest teacher turnover rates in the district.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. November 17, 2016 1:32 PM
Categories: Education, Leandro, Segregation

Looking at the Path Ahead

The long and contentious election season is over, and Donald J. Trump is the President-elect of the United States. The 2016 election will have profound results for our country and the world. Among the most important impacts will be the civil and constitutional rights of the citizens and people of the United States.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights is a non-partisan entity. Its mission is the advancement of civil rights in North Carolina, the south, and the nation, and the training of new generations of civil rights lawyers. While we are non-partisan, we are compelled to acknowledge the effects of partisan politics on civil rights. We did not create this reality, and if we could choose, there would be no partisan alignment on civil rights issues.


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Posted by Theodore M. Shaw (Ted) on Tue. November 15, 2016 4:49 PM
Categories: General, Race Discrimination

UNC Center for Civil Rights to Host Statewide Election Protection Hotline

Election Protection

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, the UNC School of Law will host a toll-free, non-partisan Election Protection hotline to answer voter questions from across North Carolina. Election Protection is a nationwide voter advocacy effort led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. Voters can contact the Election Protection hotline at 1.866.OUR.VOTE (1.866.687.8683) or 1.888.VE.Y.VOTA (1.888.839.8682) to report any problems they experience or witness at the polls, verify their registration status, or find their polling location.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights has hosted Election Protection’s North Carolina Election Day hotline since 2004. The North Carolina hotline is the only Election Protection call center that is staffed by law student volunteers. This year, over 80 law students have volunteered to staff the call center and field voter questions from individuals across the state. Lawyers and experts from the UNC Center for Civil Rights, Democracy NC, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will be present to assist student volunteers with calls and any needed follow-up. Because of potential voter misinformation and confusion related to the recent litigation and judicial rulings regarding North Carolina’s controversial 2013 election law, and with the state in play as a crucial toss-up in the presidential election, call volume at the hotline is expected to be very heavy.

The Election Protection hotline is open now for early voting, and will remain active through the closing of the polls on Election Day.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. November 3, 2016 4:33 PM
Categories: Voting Rights

VIDEO: Silver v. Halifax County NC Court of Appeals Argument


On September 19, 2016, the NC Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the Center’s groundbreaking education case, Silver v. Halifax County Bd. of Commissioners.

Watch the argument

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Posted by Mark Dorosin on Mon. October 31, 2016 2:22 PM
Categories: Education, Halifax County, Race Discrimination, Segregation

Charters, Segregation, and Social Justice- A Response to Dr. Danielsen

Relying on research from Vermont and Santa Ana, Dr. Bartley Danielsen’s Point of View column “More school choice will ease social ills,” exhorts North Carolinians to “embrace charter schools” and private school vouchers to address the continuing impacts of residential segregation. But Dr. Danielsen ignores two critical elements: first, the responsibility of school boards that promote and defend so-called “neighborhood schools” assignment plans that replicate and reinforce segregation in public schools; and second, in North Carolina, the charter schools he urges us to embrace are almost twice as segregated as traditional public schools.
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Posted by Mark Dorosin on Wed. October 26, 2016 9:17 AM
Categories: Education, Segregation

North Carolina Environmental Justice Network's 18th Annual Environmental Justice Summit

On October 21-22, environmental justice advocates, scientists and impacted community members from across the state gathered at the historic Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network’s (NCEJN) 18th annual Environmental Justice Summit. There were research presentations on lead poisoning prevention, coal ash and its impact on low-income communities, and anti-biotic resistant bacteria from industrial hog operations. A Government Listening Panel held on Friday afternoon was not attended by any representatives from NC’s Department of Environmental Quality. However, community members were able to directly plead with the EPA to enforce civil rights protections because Cynthia Peurifoy from EPA’s Region IV office in Atlanta, GA was on the panel. Friday evening featured a play based on oral histories collected from residents of West Badin, NC, “Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town,” documenting the disastrous human cost of working in and living near the Alcoa plant which officially closed in 2010. Members of the Concerned Citizens of the West Badin Community spoke after the play. The Center and its clients received special recognition on Saturday when the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) received NCEJN’s Community Resilience Award, and Center Staff Attorney Elizabeth Haddix received the Steve Wing International Environmental Justice Award.
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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Tue. October 25, 2016 9:10 AM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

Ted Shaw on NCCU's Legal Eagle Review

Center Director Ted Shaw joined Professor Irv Joyner and voting rights advocates from Democracy NC and Southern Coalition for Social Justice on the NCCU Legal Eagle Review radio show. Listen to the podcast .
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Posted by Jennifer Watson Marsh on Wed. September 21, 2016 12:38 PM
Categories: Race Discrimination, Voting Rights

Center clients participate in Factory Farm Summit, Green Bay, WI

On September 10 and 11, 2016, Center staff attorney Elizabeth Haddix joined residents from Sampson, Duplin, Bladen and Pender counties who suffer the impacts from industrial pork and poultry operations concentrated in their communities at a national summit hosted by the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, WI entitled “Factory Farm Summit: Demanding Accountability in Agriculture.” The summit, which brought together farmers, residents, researchers and advocates from across the country, was organized by the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP), which works throughout the U.S. helping communities protect themselves from the negative impacts of factory farms, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Fri. September 16, 2016 2:11 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice

UNC Center for Civil Rights Inclusion Project: Education Advocacy in New Hanover County

The above map shows clusters of Census blocks in Wilmington where 75% or more of residents are non-white.  A statewide map is available at http://www.uncinclusionproject.org/.

The above map shows clusters of Census blocks in Wilmington where 75% or more of residents are non-white. A statewide map is available at http://www.uncinclusionproject.org/.

In New Hanover County, public school officials continue to grapple with the tension between promoting racial and socio-economic diversity in schools and the political pressure of suburban parents who favor an assignment plan that emphasizes proximity, often referred to as a “neighborhood school” plan. That term can be misleading when only certain neighborhoods are prioritized, and ignores the reality that such assignment plans reinforce patterns of residential segregation and sacrifice the educational benefits of racially and socio-economically diverse schools. In its new Inclusion Project report, the UNC Center for Civil Rights describes direct community-based, education advocacy in New Hanover County. The Inclusion Project grew out of the Center’s community-based advocacy focused on addressing structural inequities and promoting racial equity and inclusion. The project began in 2013 with the release of “The State of Exclusion” report, and includes a series of county profiles analyzing the continuing impacts of the legacy of racial segregation.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Tue. September 6, 2016 12:03 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Education
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