Case: United States of America v. Halifax County Board of Education

8:69-cv-01128 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Filed Date: June 16, 1969

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On 6/16/1969, the United States filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina against the defendant Halifax County and its Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. A group of African-American minor children and their parents, along with a African-American faculty members, were allowed to intervene as plaintiffs. Much of the litigation in this case -- including a merits opinion from the Supreme Court -- stems from an att…

On 6/16/1969, the United States filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina against the defendant Halifax County and its Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. A group of African-American minor children and their parents, along with a African-American faculty members, were allowed to intervene as plaintiffs.

Much of the litigation in this case -- including a merits opinion from the Supreme Court -- stems from an attempt by Scotland Neck, a town within Halifax County, to form its own school system. For many years, residents had been frustrated with Halifax County's oversight and had attempted to create their own district. These efforts soon collided with the Board's desegregation efforts.

In 1965, the Board adopted a freedom-of-choice school plan that made few inroads into desegregation. As a result, on July 27, 1968, the United States, pursuant to Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sent a notice letter to the County, ordering it take further steps to integrate the schools. After negotiations, the Board submitted an interim desegregation plan in 1969. At the same time, however, the County approved a plan to carve out Scotland Neck and create a new school district. The plain result of that maneuver was to funnel white students out of the Halifax County school system, making integration in student assignment much more difficult. As a result, the United States filed suit in June 1969 against the city and county, seeking to enjoin the implementation of the Scotland Neck plan and asking the Board to take more aggressive steps to desegregate. On May 23, 1970, the District Court (Judge John Larkins), concluded that the Scotland Neck plan, which effectively "created a refuge for white students," was unconstitutional because it "was at least partially motivated by a desire to stem the flight of white students from the public schools." And it had the effect of "interfer[ing] with the desegregation of the Halifax County School system." United States of America v. Halifax County Board of Education, 314 F.Supp. 65, 78 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970).

On March 23, 1971, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's findings as to the Scotland Neck plan. But, on June 22, 1972, the Supreme Court reversed the Fourth Circuit in favor of the district court's original conclusion striking down the Scotland Neck plan. Oddly, however, the trial court docket ends in 1972.

The status of this case is unclear: in 2007, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report, Becoming Less Separate in which it reported that the U.S. Department of Justice continued to list this case as ongoing, but that "The superintendent of this school district maintains that the district is not currently under a school desegregation court order."

In 2011, the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights (a center affiliated with the UNC Law School) issued a report arguing for the consolidation of the three school districts currently operating within Halifax County. It described the vastly disparate demographics of each of those three districts -- Halifax County school system is 88 percent back; the Weldon City schools are 95 percent black and the Roanoke Rapids school district is 72 percent white -- and the general economic distress in the County as a whole. Both Weldon City and Roanoke Rapids opposed the consolidation. Attorneys affiliated with the Center filed a lawsuit in state court. The report did not clarify the status of the federal litigation.

Available Opinions

United States of America v. Halifax County Board of Education, 314 F.Supp. 65 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970)

United States v. Scotland Neck Board of Education, 442 F.2d 575 (4th Cir. Mar. 23, 1971) (reversing district court)

United States v. Scotland Neck Board of Education, 407 U.S. 484 (June 22, 1972) (Stewart, J.) (reversing the Fourth Circuit and upholding the district court)

Summary Authors

Greg Margolis (3/4/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Blackmun, Harry Andrew (District of Columbia)

Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (West Virginia)

Bryan, Albert Vickers (Virginia)

Burger, Warren Earl (District of Columbia)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Craven, James Braxton Jr. (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Larkins, John Davis Jr. (North Carolina)

Powell, Lewis Franklin Jr. (District of Columbia)

Rehnquist, William Hubbs (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Blackmun, Harry Andrew (District of Columbia)

Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (West Virginia)

Bryan, Albert Vickers (Virginia)

Burger, Warren Earl (District of Columbia)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Craven, James Braxton Jr. (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Larkins, John Davis Jr. (North Carolina)

Powell, Lewis Franklin Jr. (District of Columbia)

Rehnquist, William Hubbs (District of Columbia)

Sobeloff, Simon E. (Maryland)

Stewart, James Edward Sr. (Louisiana)

Winter, Harrison Lee (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Howard, Charles K. (District of Columbia)

Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia)

Morgan, Robert (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Creech, William A. (North Carolina)

Crew, W. Lunsford (North Carolina)

Josey, C. Kitchin (North Carolina)

Joyner, William T. (North Carolina)

McLean, William S. (North Carolina)

Moody, Ralph (North Carolina)

Parker, Rom B. (North Carolina)

Stein, Adam (North Carolina)

Other Attorney(s)

Ramee, Neal (North Carolina)

Walker, James W. Jr. (North Carolina)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Dorosin, Mark (North Carolina)

Haddix, Elizabeth (North Carolina)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

8:69-cv-01128

Docket

Nov. 10, 1972

Nov. 10, 1972

Docket

8:69-cv-01128

Opinion and Order [Ruling Chapter 31 of the North Carolina Session Laws of 1969 Unconstitutional]

314 F.Supp. 65

May 23, 1970

May 23, 1970

Order/Opinion

14929

14930

[Order]

United States of America v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

442 F.2d 575

May 23, 1971

May 23, 1971

Order/Opinion

70-00130

70-00187

[Supreme Court Opinion]

Supreme Court of the United States

407 U.S. 484

June 22, 1972

June 22, 1972

Order/Opinion

Joint Statement of the Weldon City Board of Education and the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of Education in Opposition to School District Consolidation Proposal

No Court

Sept. 6, 2011

Sept. 6, 2011

Press Release

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 6, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: North Carolina

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 16, 1969

Case Ongoing: Perhaps, but long-dormant

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The United States; various private plaintiffs (African-American children by and through their parents, along with African-American educators) were allowed to intervene. Also allowed to intervene were certain Haliwa Indians.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Halifax County, School District

State of North Carolina , State

Defendant Type(s):

Elementary/Secondary School

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Title IV, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

U.S. Supreme Court merits opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Order Duration: 1969 - None

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Disparate Treatment

Education

Racial segregation

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run