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.
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 aorded 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 theenorcement o the Civil Rights Act o 1964, each district separatedstudents by race, depriving Black students o the same educationalresources that were aorded White children.When the ederal government began to insist that school districtsin the South start to desegregate, Whites in Haliax 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.
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 aord 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.
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
Figure 1: Haliax 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 reuges within Haliax 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 thereore unconstitu-tional.
Ironically, while the courts recognized the segregativeimpact o these additional districts in Haliax County, the overtracial disparities between the existing three districts has not drawnany legal scrutiny. Whites have successully 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).