University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name United States of America v. Halifax County Board of Education SD-NC-0002
Docket / Court 69-1128 ( E.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
In June 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 ... read more >
In June 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)

Greg Margolis - 03/04/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Elementary/Secondary School
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title IV, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq.
Defendant(s) Halifax County
State of North Carolina
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.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 1969 - n/a
Filing Year 1969
Case Ongoing Perhaps, but long-dormant
Additional Resources
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  Desegregation Court Records
Date: Jan. 1, 2017
By: ProPublica
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

NO. 1128-CIV (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/1972
Source: Pro Publica
General Documents
Opinion and Order [Ruling Chapter 31 of the North Carolina Session Laws of 1969 Unconstitutional] (314 F.Supp. 65) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/1970
Source: Pro Publica
[Order] (442 F.2d 575)
SD-NC-0002-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/1971
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Supreme Court Opinion] (407 U.S. 484)
SD-NC-0002-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/22/1972
Source: Supreme Court website
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
SD-NC-0002-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 09/06/2011
Judges Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (N.D. W. Va., Fourth Circuit)
Bryan, Albert Vickers (FISC, E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
Butzner, John Decker Jr. (E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
Craven, James Braxton Jr. (W.D.N.C., Fourth Circuit)
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
Larkins, John Davis Jr. (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0002-0003 | SD-NC-0002-9000
Sobeloff, Simon E. (Fourth Circuit)
Winter, Harrison Lee (D. Md., Fourth Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Howard, Charles K. (District of Columbia)
Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia)
Walker, James R. Jr. (North Carolina)
Defendant's Lawyers Josey, C. Kitchin (North Carolina)
Joyner, Walton K. (North Carolina)
Joyner, William T. (North Carolina)
Morgan, Robert (North Carolina)
Other Lawyers Ramee, Neal (North Carolina)

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