Parents, grandparents and local community groups in Halifax County filed a lawsuit today in Superior Court against the County Board of Commissioners, contending that the board has failed to provide public school students with the “sound basic education” required under the state constitution.
The parties challenging the school districts allege in the Complaint that county schools now serve fewer than 7000 students assigned to three separate and racially identifiable school districts, rather than one unified district, thereby “forcing the districts to compete for limited educational resources and causing the County to incur duplicative costs.”
By maintaining a three-district system, especially as student population is declining, the county board not only perpetuates racial lines but also fails to adequately fund the districts, they add.
Though county population is roughly 40 percent white and 54 percent black or multiracial, the student population at two of the three districts is overwhelmingly black. Test scores in those two school districts are among the lowest in the state while dropout rates are among the highest.
The parties suing also contend that the quality of educational resources—including facilities, teachers, learning materials, and curricular and extra-curricular resources—provided to students in Halifax County, and especially students in the majority black districts, falls well below constitutional standards:
Students at Northwest High School in HCPS have endured sewage in the hallways, crumbling ceilings and exposure to mold, and failing heating and air systems. By contrast, the students at RRGSD’s high school attend a school that has been repeatedly renovated since its initial construction, is on the National Register of Historic Places, has a building dedicated solely to physical education and music and a pristine athletic field.
They are asking the court to find that the three-district system fails to provide county students, especially those at risk, with the constitutionally-required sound basic education and to order the board to come up with a plan to unify and better fund county schools.
Read the full complaint in Silver v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners here.