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Local Community Groups and Parents Sue Halifax County Board of Commissioners Over Blocked Access to Sound Basic Education

For Immediate Release August 24, 2015

CONTACT:

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: Stacie B. Royster
202-662-8317; sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org

U.N.C. Center for Civil Rights: Mark Dorosin
919-445-0174; dorosin@email.unc.edu

Coalition for Education and Economic Security in Halifax (CEES): Rebecca Copeland
252-813-5952; CEES4HC@gmail.com

NAACP, Halifax County Branch: David Harvey
252-314-7446

Latham & Watkins LLP: Jessica Allen
212-906-2983; jessica.allen@lw.com

HALIFAX, NC – 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.

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 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 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.

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.

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About The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers' Committee, 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. The Lawyers' Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 as it continued its quest of "Moving America Toward Justice." The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.

For more information about the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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