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ccrhalifaxexecsumfinal

ccrhalifaxexecsumfinal

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The State of Educationin Halifax County, North Carolina
Th
 
UNC Center 
 
 for 
 
Civil Rights
Unless Our ChildrenBegin to LearnTogether…”
This report was unded by a grant rom the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
A comprehensive analysis of the history,educational impacts and legal implicationsof maintaining three separate schooldistricts in Halifax County, NC.
2011 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 
 
Unless Our Children Begin to Learn Together…” 
The State of Education in Halifax County, N.C.
1
SEGREGATION AND RESEGREGATIONIN NORTH CAROLINA
In North Carolina, a majority o Black and Hispanic studentsattend schools composed primarily o a non-White student body.These intensely segregated schools are typically characterized by highpoverty rates, lower teacher quality, less rigorous curricula andinadequate unding.The Center or Civil Rights’ ongoing work with parents, communi-ties and education advocates across the state has demonstrated whyNorth Carolina is an ideal state to critically examine the issues o school segregation and integration. School districts across the stateare at various stages o the historical trajectory rom segregation tointegration and, more recently, back to resegregation. At one extremeis Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), a district that producedthe seminal Supreme Court case authorizing the use o busing toachieve integration. Following that litigation, CMS so successullydesegregated its schools that in 2000, the ederal court declared itwas ully integrated (legally, “unitary”) and released the district rom judicial oversight. Since that time, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schoolshave resegregated and are now nearly as racially isolated as they werebeore the 1971 Court ruling.There are also counties like New Hanover and Wayne, whichoperate schools districts that, like CMS, were once under court orderto desegregate but have since been declared unitary. In the wake o their removal rom the court’s jurisdiction, these districts have createdand continue to pursue racially resegregative student assignment andattendance plans that reinorce patterns o residential segregation andcreate high poverty, racially isolated schools. Pitt County Schoolsremain under an active 1970 ederal court desegregation order, but theboard there still reused to consider race in its most recent studentreassignment plan, adopting instead a model that closes a historicArican American school and increases racial segregation and isolationo high-poverty students. Finally, at the other extreme, there are anumber o counties like Haliax, which never actually or eectivelydesegregated in the rst place.Haliax County is one o the most economically distressedcounties in North Carolina – a geographically large rural county withlow-density population and stagnant or declining public schoolenrollment. It is also one o the ew counties in North Carolina thatmaintains three separate school districts. All three are small; togetherthey serve appr
 
oximately 8,000 students. Haliax County’s mostunique characteristic, however, is the stark racial and socioeconomicisolation o its students, which has its origins in the state-sanctionedsegregation that led to the creation o the tripartite system. In acounty that is only 39 percent White overall, HCPS and WCS areboth almost 100 percent non-White, while RRGSD is over 70 percent
I
n 2009, the UNC Center or Civil Rights began working in Haliax County, North Carolina on a variedand seemingly unrelated number o education and community inclusion matters. Despite the range o issues the Center’s clients were acing, a consistent theme emerged, as the parents, teachers, activistsand community members with whom we worked all repeated, in various ways: “Something is very wrongwith the schools in this county.”The development and maintenance o three separate, racially segregated school districts in HaliaxCounty is a continuing violation o the constitutional rights o students and severely undermines the qualityo education provided by the public schools throughout the county. The county’s three districts – HaliaxCounty Public Schools (HCPS), Weldon City Schools (WCS) and Roanoke Rapids Graded School District(RRGSD) – remain among the most segregated in the state and are tainted by the ongoing impacts o thelegacy o Jim Crow segregation. By maintaining this tripartite system, Haliax County and the state moredeeply entrench racial segregation in the community, limit the educational resources available to studentsbased on their race, cause irreparable harm to the academic opportunities or all children in the county, andstunt the economic viability o the region.
 
2
White. The school districts’ ree and reduced lunch (FRL) percentages,the standard measure o poverty in schools, are similarly disparate: 90percent o HCPS and 95 percent o WCS students are FRL-eligible,while only 51 percent o RRGSD students meet this poverty level.
1
THE LEGACY OF SEGREGATION
To suggest that the racial and socioeconomic disparities betweenthe two predominantly Black districts and RRGSD are a demographichappenstance is historically dishonest. In the mid-1930s, RoanokeRapids’ population was almost entirely White, due to Jim Crow lawsthat barred Blacks rom economic opportunities aorded by the town’stextile industry. Although Blacks constituted the overwhelmingmajority o the county population, they were a minority in the county’stowns through the 1960s. HCPS was a majority-Black school district inthe mid-1930s, while WCS was majority White, albeit with a signi-cantly greater number o Black students than RRGSD. Until theenorcement o the Civil Rights Act o 1964, each district separatedstudents by race, depriving Black students o the same educationalresources that were aorded White children.When the ederal government began to insist that school districtsin the South start to desegregate, Whites in Haliax County becameacutely conscious o their minority status and scrambled to eithercreate or maintain “White enclaves” to insulate themselves romintegration. RRGSD was already substantially insulated: in 1965, it hadonly a ew hundred Black students, all o whom attended the district’sonly “Negro” school, the K-12 Chaloner School. HCPS and RRGSDhad an arrangement that permitted HCPS students to cross thedistrict boundary to attend Chaloner (located at the very edge o theRRGSD boundary); thereby allowing both districts to more easilymaintain the segregation o their schools. In 1965, the Justice Depart-ment ound that this district-crossing arrangement perpetuatedsegregation and thus could not continue.
2
 Although the majority o Chaloner’s students were countyresidents, HCPS lacked capacity to accommodate them in its existingBlack schools. RRGSD, with its relatively small Black population, couldnot aord to maintain its own segregated school. Rather than look atconsolidating the racially disparate districts, the two school boardsarranged or the Chaloner School to be leased to HCPS or a ewyears while the county built new schools to accommodate its students.At the end o the lease, Chaloner returned to RRGSD, which thenconverted the ormerly K-12 Black school to a majority-White, newlyrenovated middle school.
3
 At the same time, Whites in the HCPS district attempted, withthe help o the state legislature, to create new segregated school
“ Unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.” 
 
 — JUSTICE THURGOOD MARSHALL,
MILLIKEN V. BRADLEY 
(1974)
Figure 1: Haliax County School Attendance Area and MunicipalBoundary Comparison
districts in the county. The Scotland Neck City School District andthe Littleton-Lake Gaston School District were created to carveout concentrated White reuges within Haliax County and preventWhite students rom being in the minority in HCPS. The UnitedStates Supreme Court ultimately ruled that creation o thesedistricts undermined desegregation, and was thereore unconstitu-tional.
4
Ironically, while the courts recognized the segregativeimpact o these additional districts in Haliax County, the overtracial disparities between the existing three districts has not drawnany legal scrutiny. Whites have successully ed both HCPS andWCS, and are insulated and isolated in RRGSD. This is even moretroubling in light o what appears to be the racially gerrymandereddistrict boundaries o RRGSD, which extend beyond the city limitsto include predominantly White neighborhoods, yet exclude somepredominantly Black neighborhoods within the city (Figure 1).

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