Halifax County School Adequacy Appeal Briefing Completed; Oral Argument to be Scheduled

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On Monday, July 18, 2016, the Center for Civil Rights filed its reply brief to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Silver v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners, reasserting its fundamental argument that a board of county commissioners—like any government actor or agency—has a constitutional obligation to ensure schoolchildren have the opportunity to secure a sound basic education.

The case was filed by the Coalition for Education and Economic Security (CEES), the Halifax County Branch of the NAACP, and three parents and guardians of schoolchildren in Halifax. The plaintiffs assert that the county commissioners’ inequitable and inefficient allocation of education resources among, and maintenance of, three racially segregated and low performing school districts in the county violates the right of students to receive a sound basic education as guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution (and affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court in the Leandro cases). Incredibly, the commissioners insist that while they admittedly have constitutional and statutory obligations to provide critical educational resources, those obligations have no relation to or bearing upon the right to or provision of a constitutionally-complaint education in Halifax County.

There are less than 7000 students in the county, attending the three racially isolated districts. Halifax County Schools is 85% black, 94% eligible for free or reduced lunch (FRL), Weldon City Schools is 94% black and 89% FRL, and Roanoke Rapids Grade School District 26% black, 62% FRL. In their complaint, the plaintiffs highlight the adverse educational impacts and outcomes that result from the county’s ineffective and wasteful distribution of resources among the districts, which predictably produces inequitable access to critical educational needs like learning materials, curricular offerings, safe and adequate facilities, and certified, high quality teachers and principals. In addition, the persistent racial division among the districts stigmatizes children in a manner that further impedes equitable educational opportunities.

The complaint was filed last August in Halifax County. Following a hearing before Judge W. Russell Duke (sitting by special designation of the Chief Justice), the case was dismissed in February. Now that all briefing is complete, the plaintiffs look forward to the scheduling of oral argument before the Court of Appeals.

Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Wed. July 20, 2016 4:22 PM
Categories: Education, Halifax County, Leandro, Segregation
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