RALEIGH, NC – The plaintiffs in Silver et al v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners this week filed notice of appeal of the September 19 ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals that county commissioners have no duty or responsibility to ensure that students are provided a sound basic education. Chief Judge Linda McGee dissented from the opinion authored by Judge Donna Stroud and joined by Judge Lucy Inman, agreeing with the Silver plaintiffs that the board of county commissioners, statutorily charged with disbursing funding to the three separate school districts in Halifax County, must do so “in a way that does not violate the constitutional right to a sound basic education established by our Supreme Court in Leandro I, and must be able to be held accountable for their failure to do so.”
The Coalition for Education and Economic Security (CEES), the Halifax County Branch of the NAACP, and three parents and guardians of schoolchildren in Halifax are plaintiffs in the case and are represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Latham & Watkins LLP.
“This case seeks to hold county officials accountable for improving the indisputably substandard education that students of Halifax County have been subject to for far too long,” stated Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “These students, who are disproportionately African American and poor, have been denied their right to a sound, basic education as guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution. We hope and expect that the North Carolina Supreme Court will recognize the rights of our clients to sue the county.”
Rebecca Copeland, President of CEES, said “It makes no sense that an arm of the State—the Board of County Commissioners— cannot be made to follow the North Carolina Constitution. We are confident that the highest court of our state will put us back on the right path.”
The case was filed in August 2015, and alleged that the Halifax County Board of Commissioners’ support, maintenance, and funding of the three racially disparate, low-performing school districts to serve less than 7,000 students creates an insurmountable obstacle to academic achievement and educational opportunity, in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.
“We knew when we began this effort seven years ago that it would be a long, hard road,” said David Harvey, President of the Halifax County NAACP. “While our legal team works on the appeal, we will continue to expose the truth about how being divided is not only a waste of our public resources, but also causes lasting harm to the most important resources of all: our children.”
“We continue to be inspired by the tenacity and courage of our clients,” said Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. “This case concerns core issues of constitutional governance, and goes to the heart of what Leandro promised, not just to students and families today, but to future generations. We trust that the North Carolina Supreme Court will reverse this decision, and allow us to proceed to a trial on the merits of our clients’ case.”
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.
Coalition for Education and Economic Security in Halifax (CEES): Rebecca Copeland | 252-813-5952 | CEES4HC@gmail.com
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: Derrick Robinson | 202-662-8335 | firstname.lastname@example.org
NAACP, Halifax County Branch: David Harvey | 252-314-7446
UNC Center for Civil Rights: Mark Dorosin 919-445-0174; email@example.com