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Case Name Adams v. Rankin County Board of Education SD-MS-0029
Docket / Court 3:67-cv-04156 ( S.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Case Summary
This is a school desegregation case that was filed on August 1, 1967 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families who resided in Rankin County, Mississippi, sought to integrate the Rankin County public schools. Renowned civil ... read more >
This is a school desegregation case that was filed on August 1, 1967 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families who resided in Rankin County, Mississippi, sought to integrate the Rankin County public schools. Renowned civil rights attorney Melvyn Leventhal was one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs.

On September 26, 1967, Rankin County was permanently enjoined from discriminating on the basis of race in its public schools. Rankin County was ordered to affirmatively take steps to eliminate its dual school system and desegregate its schools. According to a later Fifth Circuit opinion, the desegregation plan eventually approved by District Judge Dan M. Russell on January 2, 1970 included three combination elementary/junior high schools housing grades 1 through 9 and one high school for all students in grades 10 through 12. Students were assigned to schools so that they would be desegregated. Additionally, the court allowed a majority-to-minority transfer program, faculty and staff were to be assigned without regard to race, and transportation was to be regularly examined to ensure all pupils were transported to and from school on a non-discriminatory basis. The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was instructed to submit a desegregation plan that conformed with all constitutional standards in accordance with the provisions set out in the order.

The U.S. Department of Justice entered the action on February 26, 1971 as an amicus curiae. The DOJ filed a motion to enforce all of the court's desegregation orders on the same day. On June 16, 1971, the district court ordered Rankin County to immediately create non-racial objective criteria to use when selecting staff members and to reevaluate all hiring decisions made regarding black school personnel (including school principals) who were not rehired after January 2, 1970. The district court required that Rankin County take steps to desegregate the McLaurin Attendance Center. It also ordered Rankin County to submit reports to the court regarding the segregation of students by race and gender in classrooms and on district transportation.

The plaintiffs then appealed to the Fifth Circuit. On September 27, 1973, the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the case to the district court and held that Rankin County schools were not unitary. The Fifth Circuit stated that the district court had to reconsider the desegregation plan it formerly approved of because the McLaurin Attendance Center's ratio of ten black students to one white student was not reflective of a unitary school system. Under the original desegregation plan, the McLaurin Attendance Center was supposed to have a 2:1 black to white ratio; however, because of white flight and attendance zone jumping by white students and their families assigned to the McLaurin Attendance Center, the ratio jumped to 10:1. The Fifth Circuit also held that new teachers could not be hired based on their qualifications alone because new teachers' qualifications exceeded those of former teachers who were displaced by the desegregation plan. The Fifth Circuit ordered that black teachers who had been dismissed and discriminated against needed to be reinstated regardless of their qualifications. Additionally, the Fifth Circuit ordered that Rankin County comply with the Constitution and implement a unitary school system because of "the long history of opposition to the unitary school concept in Rankin County." Finally, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case for the district court to determine if Rankin County had eliminated all vestiges of a dual system, particularly relating to extracurricular activities. 485 F.2d 324 (5th Cir. 1973).

The Judge Russell submitted reports to the Fifth Circuit on July 10, 1974 and December 23, 1974 in accordance with the 1973 Fifth Circuit remand. This report reinstated twenty employees, but did not reinstate all teachers who were dismissed during the unitary system implementation. The Fifth Circuit later held that the teachers who were not reinstated did not have to be reinstated because one could conclude they were incompetent and were not dismissed as a result of racial discrimination. The case was then remanded back to district court in order to determine how much backpay was owed to them. 524 F.2d 928 (5th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 438 U.S. 904 (1978). On August 5, 1980, these teachers were awarded $164,139.90 in backpay.

Throughout the late 1970s into 1980s, Rankin County submitted annual reports to the court.

In 1976, the Pearl Public School District (PPSD) was carved out of the Rankin County School District. A 1978 consent order by the district court modified attendance zones in Rankin County to create the new school district and ensure compliance with ongoing desegregation efforts. PPSD intervened in the case as a defendant in 1995. A consent decree was entered in 1997 between Rankin County and PPSD resolving disputes regarding boundaries between the two districts and allowing students residing in certain areas to choose whether to attend PPSD or Rankin County schools. A motion was filed by Rankin County on June 1, 2010 to modify the 1997 consent decree. An agreed order was signed by District Judge Tom S. Lee on January 10, 2012. Judge Lee noted that students who had been allowed to choose whether to attend Rankin County schools or PPSD could stay there because the number of students affected was small and there would be "no appreciable impact on desegregation efforts." PPSD boundaries were expanded via a consent order that was signed on November 11, 2012.

On June 15, 2017, the Rankin County School District submitted an Unopposed Motion of School Construction for approval to the district court as required by the consent order. The motion, associated with Rankin County's bond proposal, promised to build 75 additional new classrooms and a new high school facility in the Northwest Attendance Zone among other renovations. The 178.5 million dollar bond was previously voted through an election held March 7, 2017, which yielded around 73 percent approval. The plaintiffs filed a response to the motion, indicating no objections to the proposal on June 22, 2017. On June 26, 2017, Judge Lee granted the motion.

The case is now closed.

Available Opinions
Adams v. Rankin Cty. Bd. of Educ., 485 F.2d 324 (5th Cir. 1973).
Adams v. Rankin Cty. Bd. of Educ., 524 F.2d 928 (5th Cir. 1975).

Amelia Huckins - 03/11/2017
Averyn Lee - 06/10/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
Race discrimination
Language access/needs
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Rankin County Board of Education
Plaintiff Description Black students and their families who resided in Rankin County, Mississippi.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1970 - 2017
Filed 08/01/1967
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
S.D. Miss.
SD-MS-0029-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Miss.
SD-MS-0029-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
U.S. Court of Appeals
Order and Opinion (485 F.2d 324)
SD-MS-0029-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
Order and Opinion (524 F.2d 928)
SD-MS-0029-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae
SD-MS-0029-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of David Norman
S.D. Miss.
1997 Consent Decree [ECF# 2-1]
SD-MS-0029-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Miss.
Consent Order for Enlargement of Pearl Attendance Zone [ECF# 82]
SD-MS-0029-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Miss.
Order [ECF# 86]
SD-MS-0029-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brown, John Robert (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0029-0004 | SD-MS-0029-0005
Gee, Thomas Gibbs (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Ingraham, Joe McDonald (S.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Lee, Tom Stewart (S.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0029-0003 | SD-MS-0029-0006
Morgan, Lewis Render (N.D. Ga., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0029-0004 | SD-MS-0029-0005
Parker, Michael T. (S.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bey, Sheryl (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Jernigan, Arthur F. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0029-0003 | SD-MS-0029-9000 | SD-MS-0029-9001
Stimley-Priester, E. Charlene (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Adams, Joseph Lee (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Barnes, Paul E. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Garrard, Mary B.S. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Griffith, Benjamin E. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Harrell, Fred M. Jr. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0029-0003 | SD-MS-0029-9001
Meynardie, John A. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Orlansky, Steven D. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Robertson, James L (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Awad, Christopher S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Hauberg, Robert E. Jr. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Jernigan, Alfred B. Jr. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Leonard, Jerris (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
McCree, Wade Hampton Jr. (Michigan) show/hide docs

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