Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Thursday, December 10, 2009

About the Newsletter

The Center for Civil Rights newsletter is a new publication about our work to further civil rights in North Carolina and throughout the South. In addition, the newsletter contains information regarding employment and pro bono opportunities, civil rights conferences and events at Carolina Law and beyond, and notable civil rights news and developments. If you are not currently receiving this newsletter and would like to subscribe, please email Sarah Krishnaraj at civilrights@unc.edu.

A Message from the Directors

Happy Holidays from the Center for Civil Rights! The end of the year is a perfect time to take a moment to reflect on the gains made and successes over the past 12 months. We've coordinated and co-sponsored three extraordinary education conferences, expanded our Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities program into Halifax County (now the primary focus of the ongoing Leandro litigation), and reached an important mediated settlement agreement in a longtime desegregation case in Pitt County. By year's end, two excluded communities with which we've worked for several years will have been annexed by and politically included in their adjacent municipalities. After hearing about these successes, we were contacted by and have begun new work with leaders in excluded communities in Hoke and Halifax counties. We've settled one important fair housing case and are in the middle of litigating another. We collaborated with other organizations to advocate in the General Assembly for progressive changes to the state's annexation and partition statutes. We also worked with and mentored dozens of pro bono law students and interns this year, hoping to encourage their commitment to civil rights and social justice law.

Of course, many challenges lie ahead. Our newly included communities still face challenges attaining equal access to all services, as well as continuing barriers to genuine social equity and inclusion. Environmental justice issues-like the potential siting of a waste transfer station in a predominantly African American community in Orange County-- are emerging as yet another manifestation of the legacy of residential segregation and exclusion across the state. And in Wake County, the largest school district in the state, the newly elected school board is committed to replacing the system's nationally recognized student diversity policy with an assignment plan likely to lead to resegregation and racially identifiable, high-poverty schools.

As always, the funding to support this work is critical. While our affiliation with the law school brings numerous benefits and resources to the Center's core missions, our program expenses and nearly all staff salaries are funded by grants and donations. As we continue to seek new grant and foundation opportunities, we are also hoping that individuals and organizations that share our vision of civil rights and social justice can help us continue this work. If you are interested in learning about how you can help support the Center, please contact Mark Dorosin at 919-843-7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu. You may also make a secure online donation at https://www.law.unc.edu/alumni/support/gift/givenow/. To ensure your gift is forwarded to the Center for Civil Rights, please be sure to designate the fund by using the drop down menu to select "Center for Civil Rights Current Use (2741)".

Once again, all of us at the Center wish you and your family happy holidays, and a new year that "bends toward justice."

Professor Charles E. Daye, Henry P. Brandis Professor of Law

The Docket

UNC Law Participates in National Public School Integration Conference at Howard Law - With the question of how best to support integration and diversity in public schools still unresolved, more than 300 parents, advocates, scholars and policymakers gathered for a day-long conference on November 13, 2009 to identify best practices and possible solutions. "Reaffirming the Role of School Integration in K-12 Public Education Policy: A Conversation among Policymakers, Advocates and Educators" was held at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. The conference was convened by a national school integration collaborative of civil rights organizations and university-based research centers, including the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

The November convening was an outgrowth from conferences held by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School in January, and by the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UNC in April. The Washington, D.C. venue provided an opportunity to reach a national audience of policymakers and advocacy organizations. Conference panelists included several members of the Obama administration: Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, U.S. Department of Education; Derek Douglas, special assistant to the president for urban affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council; Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, U.S. Department of Education; Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for education policy, White House Domestic Policy Council; and Jocelyn Samuels, senior counselor, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

UNC School of Law Dean and former Deputy Director of the Center John Charles "Jack" Boger concluded the day by leading a conversation with john a. powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University and Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, about specific ways the Obama administration can support racial and socioeconomic integration in public schools. powell noted the "respectful tension" towards the Obama administration from attendees who "feel that not enough is being done" to ensure integration is a top priority in federal education regulations and funding. "We can't lose our voices because we think we have friends in high places," powell urged. "There are people in this administration that want to do something, but we need to mobilize them." Orfield offered the final comments of the day. "After you think about today, do something."

View C-SPAN coverage of the conference morning sessions, featuring U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali and Assistant Secretary Carmel Martin.
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/290005-1
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/290005-2

Read detailed conference notes by live blogger Justin Massa of MoveSmart.org.

Read a post-conference commentary by Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation.

UNC Law Dean Jack Boger leads a panel discussion.

Court Approves Settlement Between Pitt County Schools and the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children - On Monday, November 2, Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard approved the mediated settlement agreement between Pitt County Schools, the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children and the Greenville Parents Association in Everett v. Pitt County Board of Education, a school desegregation case under the court's jurisdiction since 1970. At that time, the court ordered that the then-separate Pitt County and Greenville City school systems eliminate all racially discriminatory policies and practices. In 2006, a group of predominantly white parents challenged the continuing applicability of these orders in a complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education challenging a student reassignment plan. To resolve the OCR complaint, the Pitt County School Board sought clarification from the federal court on the applicability of the 1970 desegregation orders as well as approval of its 2006-2007 redistricting plan and 2007 student attendance policy. Representing four families and the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children the Center intervened in the case in support of the continuing vitality of the desegregation orders and the School Board's actions. After several months of discovery and mediation, the parties reached a settlement agreement earlier this year.

The Court's order holds that the 1970 desegregation orders are still applicable, as the Pitt County Schools still bear the vestiges of racial discrimination from a segregated, dual system. The Court also approved the student assignment plan and policies and determined that the School Board acted in compliance with its obligations under the 1970 desegregation orders by attempting to reduce racial isolation in Pitt County schools. Under the settlement agreement, the School Board must implement a plan to eliminate all vestiges of segregated schools in Pitt County and seek input from the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children about the next student reassignment plan. The School Board must present a report to the Court on its progress under that plan by December 31, 2012.

Read more about the Pitt County Schools Settlement.

UNC Law Students Tackle Educational Issues in Halifax County - On Saturday, November 21, 2009, nine UNC law students and the Center's education fellow, Benita N. Jones, traveled to Halifax County to discuss recent improvements and ongoing challenges in the Halifax County Public Schools. Hosted by Gary Grant and members of The Committee to Save Education in Halifax County, law students participated in community meetings in Scotland Neck and Enfield where parents and students discussed their experiences and concerns about school safety and educational quality in Halifax County. Following the meetings, law students interviewed parents and students about instructional, administrative and disciplinary policies in the Halifax County Public Schools and provided information about legal tools and resources to help parents and community members advocate effectively on behalf of all children in Halifax County.

This trip is the second in the Center's series of meetings in Halifax County to inform parents about the constitutional potential of Leandro v. State of North Carolina for their children's educations. In May 2009, the Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning approved a consent order between the Halifax County School Board, the NC Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education to implement a three-year intervention plan for teachers, administrators and elected officials to ensure all students in the Halifax County Public Schools receive a Leandro-compliant "sound basic education". The Center will document if and how the plan is impacting Halifax County students and parents for the duration of the DPI intervention, as well as provide legal resources about school law and student rights to students, parents and community members. Raina Haque, a first year student who participated in the trip, reflected, "Despite the complexity of problem, I was hopeful because there are people in the community who can take the time to air their concerns and [the] Center can document these concerns and take them back to the judiciary/legislature. It was a great and humbling experience for the UNC law students to suddenly see a community's generation deprived of an education to which we consider ourselves entitled."

Advocates Rally for Diversity and Excellence in Wake County Schools - In the weeks following the Wake County School Board election, education advocates across the country have been speculating about the future of the school system's student assignment diversity policy. A model for districts across the country seeking to support integrated public schools consistent with the Supreme Court's decision Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (PICS), the Wake County policy provides that individual schools should reflect a free and reduced lunch ratio no greater than 40% of its student population and an achievement level of less than 25% of students below grade level. Although largely successful in maintaining socio-economic and racial diversity, critics of the plan have challenged the expense of "busing" students to maintain diversity and that graduation rates for economically disadvantaged students continue to decrease. For these reasons, all four newly elected board members have expressed their intentions to dismantle the current plan.

Supporters of the current Wake County diversity plan fear that a reversal to so-called "neighborhood schools" will lead to the resegregation and related adverse impacts for poor, predominantly black and brown children consigned to low performing, under resourced schools. Numerous parent groups and legal advocacy organizations, including the Center for Civil Rights, are committed to ensuring that the new board adopts policies and strategies that preserve and enhance both diversity and high-achievement in Wake County schools.

Read the Center's online editorial about the Wake County Schools diversity policy featured on the News and Observer's blog.

Fall Break Wills Project Serves Clients, Educates Students - On October 22 and 23, 2009, twenty-six UNC law students and six attorneys and paralegals from Legal Aid of North Carolina-Pittsboro office, the UNC Pro Bono office, and the Center for Civil Rights traveled to Moore County, NC to draft wills and other advanced directives for members of three excluded communities that have been long-time clients of the Center. Students arrived Thursday morning to set up mobile legal clinics in the Midway and Jackson Hamlet community centers and prepare for the arrival of clients, the first attorney-client interaction for many 1L student participants.

By the end of the two day project, students drafted 76 documents and served twenty-five clients. While students gave their time and legal expertise to these residents, they also walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of these neighborhoods and residents. Community leaders shared stories of each community's history and ongoing struggle to gain access to basic services and inclusion into the neighboring municipality. As a result, students were not only able to build upon the legal concepts and knowledge they are learning in law school, but also gain exposure to the myriad civil rights issues and inequalities facing low-income, minority communities throughout North Carolina. Angie Spong, a second year student who grew up in Moore County, noted, "It's empowering to come back and realize that even though I'm not going to change their overall situations anytime soon, I have helped two different people to acquire necessary legal documents. In a world and a community where the law has been used time and time again to disempower those without wealth, I used the law to help bring some security to two of the most kind, grateful, and positive individuals I've had the privilege of meeting."

Read more student impressions and view additional pictures at http://wheretheresawillunc.wordpress.com.

Students complete several documents for the Ray family.
Students work with Ms. Ernestine Tyson to draft a will.

Waynor Road Community to Become Part of Southern Pines at End of Year - On October 13, 2009, the Southern Pines Town Council voted unanimously to approve the voluntary annexation of the Waynor Road community. The annexation will take effect December 31, 2009. This marks the second major victory for the community this calendar year. This summer, the Town of Southern Pines began construction of water and sewer lines in the community. Construction has remained on schedule and residents anticipate hooking up to public water and sewer prior to the holiday season.

Waynor Road is a predominantly African-American community populated by more than 75 residents that sits on the outskirts of Southern Pines. For many years, the community has been part of Southern Pines' extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) which subjects the neighborhood to the land use, zoning and development restrictions of the municipality, but excludes residents from the ability to vote for town officials.

Regarding the annexation, long time Waynor Resident Brenda Whitaker stated, "For so long, we've had a Carthage address and a Whispering Pines phone number, and we're close to Pinehurst, but now we belong someplace."

Waynor Road becomes the second Moore County excluded community to be annexed this year. In July, Midway residents formally became part of Aberdeen following a legislative annexation.

Town Takes in Waynor Road Area

Habitat Lawsuit Remanded to State Court - Earlier this year attorneys from the Center and the Winston-Salem office of Kilpatrick Stockton, working as pro bono co-counsel, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of the North Carolina Sandhills alleging violations of federal fair housing laws and interference with contract related to Habitat's purchase of land and proposed affordable housing development in Pinebluff, NC. Pinebluff's mayor, board of commissioners, and town attorney are named as defendants in the complaint, as well as the sellers and purchasers of the property. Shortly after the complaint was filed, defendants removed the case to federal court based on the federal fair housing claims. Plaintiffs challenged the removal based on the failure of all defendants to timely and unambiguously consent to the removal. On October 20, 2009, a federal magistrate judge for the Middle District of North Carolina heard arguments regarding the removal and ordered that the case be remanded to state court in Moore County.

Carthage Bypass Project Deferred; Needmoore Community Celebrates Victory - For more than two years, the Needmore community - an historic African American community located in Carthage, NC - has been engaged in a battle with the NC Department of Transportation (DOT) to save their neighborhood from a proposed road construction project that would have destroyed their community. Led by the Needmore Community Improvement Association, and working with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, residents organized numerous meetings, coordinated community surveys and letter writing campaigns, and attended meetings with DOT and local government officials. Throughout the lengthy process, residents remained passionate and engaged, and won several major victories, including the removal of two proposed routes that would have destroyed residents' homes, churches, and an historical cemetery. However, three routes remained on the drawing board, all of which would have adversely impacted two African American communities in Carthage. The northern route would have bi-sected the Needmore community and physically divided its residents. The two proposed southern routes would have devastated the Dowd Street area - another historic African American community - by threatening residents' homes and the oldest African American church in Carthage.

In response to growing public opposition, Carthage Mayor Ronnie Fields submitted a letter to DOT expressing their dissatisfaction with the proposed routes and requesting additional options. DOT officials responded by recommending the project be deferred indefinitely due to "significant public opposition" and "significant environmental impacts." The following week, the Carthage Board of Commissioners and the Regional Planning Organization unanimously approved resolutions requesting DOT remove the Carthage bypass project from further consideration. As a result, DOT has officially deferred the bypass and will reallocate all funding for the project.

Carthage Bypass Dropped

Carthage Board Asks State to Defer Bypass

Employment Opportunities

Center for Civil Rights Recruiting Staff Attorney to Fill Position - The University of North Carolina School of Law invites applications for the position of Education Staff Attorney with the Center for Civil Rights. The Center for Civil Rights is a legal organization that uses action-oriented advocacy, including litigation, to make America's promise of justice, opportunity, and prosperity a reality for all people.

The Education Staff Attorney will have primary responsibility for the Center's Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities program. The Education Staff Attorney will work with parents, community organizations, public school leaders and other attorneys to advocate for the preservation of diversity in public education and further develop the Center's strategic vision and advocacy agenda. The Center seeks applicants with a Juris Doctor degree and three years minimum experience in civil rights or public interest practice and/or public policy advocacy. This is an EPA Non-Faculty position.

Please visit jobs.unc.edu for further information on this position and application instructions. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, two substantial legal writing samples (ten pages maximum) and the names and contact information for three references. All questions should be directed to Rebecca Williams, Director of Human Resources, by email at rbwill@email.unc.edu or by mail at UNC School of Law 100 Ridge Road, CB# 3380, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. For more information about UNC-CH School of Law, please visit our website at www.law.unc.edu. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Additional information is available on the Center's website.

Applications for the 2010-2012 Community Inclusion & Economic Development Fellowship Now Being Accepted - The UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights invites applications for its two-year Community Inclusion and Economic Development Fellowship for recent law school graduates. Fellows work under the direct supervision of the Center's senior attorneys. Fellows have primary responsibility for one program area and may contribute to other program areas as well. Fellows conduct legal research, provide direct representation to Center clients, help coordinate community outreach and public education, supervise law students working with the Center, and draft legal and policy documents submitted to the courts, other advocacy organizations and the media.

Applicants must have a strong commitment to civil rights and social justice work, excellent verbal and written communications skills, be self-directed, have the ability to manage multiple assignments simultaneously, work confidently with people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and exhibit promising leadership potential through professional experiences or law school activities.

Position Requirements: Graduation from an ABA accredited law school within the last two years (Class of 2010 graduates are eligible); and admission to a State Bar within one year of employment. North Carolina State Bar preferred, but not required.

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, law school academic record, three references, and two writing samples (at least one should be legal in nature) to:
Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs
UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights
Attention: Civil Rights Fellowship Program
CB#3382, Law School Annex
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382
civilrights@unc.edu

Application review will begin December 1, 2009. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please do not fax application materials.

Applications for 2010 Summer Internships Now Being Accepted - The Center provides summer internships for rising 2L and 3L law students. Summer interns assist with the Center's current case load, participate in special projects, and have opportunities to meet lawyers, advocates, and community leaders engaged in social justice work.

Interested law students should submit a cover letter, resume, and current (unofficial) law school transcript to: Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs, UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights, CB#3382, Law School Annex, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382, civilrights@unc.edu. (Please do not fax application materials.)

Application review and interview selection will begin on February 1, 2010.

Dicta

2010 will not only usher in a new year but also a new website for the Center for Civil Rights. Please be sure to visit our new website in February for the latest news and events regarding the Center and our work.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights now has a Facebook page. Please join our online community!

Pro Bono Opportunities

There are ongoing pro bono opportunities at the Center for law students. Projects vary in time commitment and can often be completed off-site. If you are interested in volunteering to work on a pro bono project, please contact Mark Dorosin at 919-843-7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu.


To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please email Sarah Krishnaraj at civilrights@unc.edu.