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Pitt County, NC

Pitt County Public Schools

Pitt County Schools (formerly Greenville City and Pitt County school systems) is one of a handful of North Carolina school districts that has remained under a federal desegregation order to eliminate all racially discriminatory policies and practices since 1970.

Update in Everett v. Pitt County Schools: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in favor of Pitt County Coalition for the Education of Black Children on School Desegregation Case

Read Press Release.

On May 7, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a published opinion in Everett et al. v. Pitt County Board of Education affirming the efforts of African American parents and community members to stop Pitt County Schools from implementing its 2011-12 student reassignment. The UNC Center for Civil Rights represents the Pitt Coalition for Educating Black Children and several individual parents of children attending Pitt County Schools.

“This is a great victory for the people,” said Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney at the Center. “The court affirmed what decades of desegregation law, from Brown vs. Board of Ed. to the present, require: that a school district which remains under a desegregation order has an affirmative duty to eliminate the vestiges of racial discrimination, and until the court rules that the district has fulfilled that duty, current racial disparities are presumed to be the result of the past unconstitutional conduct.”

Of note: The Department of Justice also recently rejected Pitt County's preclearance submission for a law that would have reduced the Board of Education from twelve to seven members. The Center submitted a comment on behalf of Plaintiffs, noting that the change would compound the marginalization of African American voters that Plaintiffs experienced while urging PCS to meet its desegregation obligations. The DOJ determined that the voting change would have a retrogressive effect on minority voting power. The Center will release a copy of its submission and the DOJ's decision shortly.

History

In 2006, a group of predominantly white parents challenged the continuing viability of these orders in a complaint against Pitt County Schools filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint claimed that the Pitt County School Board's 2006-07 student assignment plan and its 2007 student attendance area policy were inconsistent with federal court 1970 desegregation orders and challenged the ongoing applicability of those orders.

To resolve the OCR complaint, the School Board sought clarification from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of N.C. on the applicability of desegregation court orders that had not been disturbed since the 1970s. In addition, the School Board sought approval of its 2006-07 redistricting plan and its 2007 attendance policy, arguing that the plan and policy were authorized by law and that they were consistent with ongoing desegregation orders governing student assignment in Pitt County. After the School Board filed these pleadings, the federal district court invited all interested parties to appear in court to respond to the Board's motions.

The Center for Civil Rights intervened in the case and appeared on behalf of four black families and the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children in support of the School Board's actions. To read our brief and the press release issued by the Center's co-counsel, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, please click on the following link.

At the July 9, 2008 hearing, the district court concluded that discovery and additional evidence was necessary for it to rule on the Board's motions. Just prior to the hearing, the parents' association filed a motion requesting a unitary status determination. Because the plaintiffs in the original 1965 and 1969 desegregation actions had aged out of the system, the Center for Civil Rights identified new plaintiffs and successfully moved to substitute these plaintiffs in the current action. Read our motion and brief.

In August 2008, the parents' association filed a motion for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief against future race conscious reassignment plans, and a motion to stay discovery. The Center, on behalf of our clients, filed a response opposing these motions. On October 6, 2008 the Court denied the parents' motions. To read our response and the Court's order, click on the following links.

Thereafter, the Center, on behalf of its clients, engaged in discovery, a period of time when the parties to litigation collect evidence to prove their claims in court. The Center began collecting evidence on the question of unitary status. After several months of discovery and mediation, the parties reached an agreement. A signed consent decree was filed with the district court on November 4, 2009.

The court-approved settlement found that the desegregation orders are still applicable and requiring the Board report back to the court by December 31, 2012 about its elimination of the remaining vestiges of discrimination. The Center is providing ongoing legal and research assistance to the Coalition as the school district develops a path towards unitary status.

Project Objectives

  • Continue to enable the Coalition to play a meaningful and informed role in the 2010 student assignment process and the development of a plan to achieve unitary status.
  • Continue to provide community education and advocacy resources about the benefits of diversity in K-12 public education.
  • Partner with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University to further our advocacy and community education work.

Project Contact

Taiyyaba Qureshi

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