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Case Name McNeal v. Tate County School District SD-MS-0025
Docket / Court 2:70-cv-00029-WAP ( N.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Case Summary
This is a school desegregation case arising out of Tate County, Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families, filed this case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on April 27, 1970. The plaintiffs sought a court order requiring that Tate County ... read more >
This is a school desegregation case arising out of Tate County, Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families, filed this case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on April 27, 1970. The plaintiffs sought a court order requiring that Tate County desegregate its public schools and achieve a unitary system. According to a later opinion, the district court approved a desegregation order on August 4, 1970.

In the first 1970 complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that Tate County sold one of its schools to the Tate Educational Foundation, Inc. for below market price in order to encourage the Foundation to create a private school "to avoid the impact of the desegregation of the schools." District Judge Orma Smith held that Tate County properly closed the school because it had outlived its usefulness and "the amount bid for the property was adequate and sufficient in law to sustain the sale." Judge Smith also noted that the Foundation and Tate County citizens were legally allowed to open a private school if they wanted to do so. No. EC7029–S, 1970 WL 118111 (N.D. Miss. Aug. 19, 1970). The plaintiffs then appealed.

The Fifth Circuit held that the sale of the school was valid, but that Tate County was enjoined from using the property to operate a private school that discriminated on the basis of race. Circuit Judge Lewis R. Morgan articulated that the private school using the former Tate County school property was completely segregated and that Tate County had an affirmative duty to take whatever steps necessary to create a unitary educational system, which includes looking into potential purchasers, when school property is sold in an area where it was typical for people to establish all-white private schools in response to court-ordered desegregation. Tate County "closed its eyes and made no inquiry" into whether the school property would be used to create an all-white private school. For this reason, the part of the district court decision allowing the sale of the school property was reversed and the case was remanded. 460 F.2d 568 (5th Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 93 S. Ct. 3049 (1973). The district court vacated its 1970 order in accordance with the Fifth Circuit's opinion and the defendants were charged with all litigation fees. No. DC 7029–S, 1972 WL 131658 (N.D. Miss. June 21, 1972).

In 1974, the plaintiffs submitted an application to the district court asking the court to find that Tate County was in violation of its 1970 desegregation order because it maintained segregated classrooms through its achievement grouping system. The district court dismissed the application. The order also amended the desegregation order's provisions regarding Tate County's services, facilities, activities, and programs. No. DC 70–29–S, 1974 WL 177573 (N.D. Miss. May 8, 1974). The plaintiffs appealed this decision.

In 1975, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The Fifth Circuit implemented a temporary bar on Tate County's achievement grouping because it resulted in racially segregated classrooms. Tate County would be permitted to lift the bar once it showed that there was a unitary school system and students that had educational disadvantages due to prior school segregation had been elevated to peer status. 508 F.2d 1017 (5th Cir. 1975).

The district court then approved a student assignment plan in line with the Fifth Circuit decision. Tate County created a committee in each of its elementary schools to review every student assignment. The committees had to ensure that every student assignment was based on the child's academic abilities (evaluated by each student's educational records) and not race. The district court highlighted that achievement grouping was still proper as long as it did not reflect students' race and both black and white Tate County citizens voiced support for achievement grouping in the schools. No. DC 70–29–S, 1975 WL 175356 (N.D. Miss. July 11, 1975).

From the mid-1970s through the 2010s, Tate County has filed annual reports with the district court updating the court on its progress to desegregate the schools. In 2010, according to a later district court opinion, Tate County filed a motion to redraw attendance zones created in the 1970 desegregation order. This motion was granted by District Judge W. Allen Pepper on September 28, 2010.

Tate County filed a motion to modify the attendance zone lines on April 1, 2016. In this motion, Tate County wanted the attendance zones to be modified so that one of the high schools in the district, Coldwater High School, would be closed and the students would be dispersed between the two other attendance zones. The plaintiffs responded with an omnibus motion that alleged Tate County had not been in compliance with the 1970 desegregation order for a variety of reasons. Tate County conceded, in a separate report, that it had not been including data about the number of teachers by race at each school and vowed to correct that wrong. Coldwater High School opened in August 2016 for the 2016-2017 school district, but the school had no athletic or extracurricular activities. The plaintiffs requested an injunction requiring that Tate County immediately resume athletic and extracurricular activities at Coldwater High School.

On December 7, 2016, District Judge Debra M. Brown (who was assigned the case on April 4, 2016) granted an injunction; she reasoned that cancelling athletic and extracurricular activities had the practical effect of making such activities unavailable to certain students based on their race because Coldwater High School was predominantly black and the availability of extracurriculars is one of six factors used to determine whether a school district has eliminated a dual system. Therefore, cancelling athletic and extracurricular activities "reduces desegregation or reinforces the existence of a dual system " and Tate County was ordered to immediately reinstate these activities at Coldwater High School. Judge Brown also found that Tate County was in civil contempt for cancelling athletic and extracurricular activities at Coldwater High School and for its reporting violations failing to report on the racial composition of Tate County school staff. The court awarded attorney's fees and costs to the plaintiffs to sanction Tate County. NO. 2:70-CV-00029-DMB, 2016 WL 7156554 (N.D. Miss. Dec. 7, 2016)

The case is ongoing.

Available Opinions
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. EC7029–S, 1970 WL 118111 (N.D. Miss. Aug. 19, 1970).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., 460 F.2d 568 (5th Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 413 U.S. 922 (1973).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. DC 7029–S, 1972 WL 131658 (N.D. Miss. June 21, 1972).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. DC 70–29–S, 1974 WL 177573 (N.D. Miss. May 8, 1974).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., 508 F.2d 1017 (5th Cir. 1975).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. DC 70–29–S, 1975 WL 175356 (N.D. Miss. July 11, 1975).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 2:70-CV-00029-DMB, 2016 WL 3264111 (N.D. Miss. June 14, 2016).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 2:70-CV-00029-DMB, 2016 WL 6651328 (N.D. Miss. Nov. 10, 2016).
McNeal v. Tate Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 2:70-CV-00029-DMB, 2016 WL 7156554 (N.D. Miss. Dec. 7, 2016).

Amelia Huckins - 03/11/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Monitoring
Reporting
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Buildings
Education
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Tate County School District
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are black students and their families who resided in Tate County, Mississippi.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1970 - n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:70-cv-00029-DMB (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/27/1970
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:70-cv-00029-DMB (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion (1970 WL 11811) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/19/1970
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (460 F.2d 568)
SD-MS-0025-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/17/1971
Source: Westlaw
Order With Injunction (1972 WL 131658) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/21/1972
Source: Westlaw
Order (1974 WL 177573) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/08/1974
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (508 F.2d 1017)
SD-MS-0025-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/12/1975
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum of Decision (1975 WL 175356) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/11/1975
Source: Westlaw
Report [ECF# 7]
SD-MS-0025-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/05/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order (2016 WL 6651328) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/10/2016
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion and Order (2016 WL 7156554) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/07/2016
Source: Westlaw
Judges Brown, Debra Marie (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0008 | SD-MS-0025-0009
Brown, John Robert (Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0025-0003
Clark, Charles (Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0025-0006
Gewin, Walter Pettus (Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0025-0003
Morgan, Lewis Render (N.D. Ga., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
SD-MS-0025-0003 | SD-MS-0025-0006
Smith, Orma Rinehart (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0025-0002 | SD-MS-0025-0004
Thornberry, William Homer (W.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0025-0006
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cox, Warren E. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9001
Kelly, Robert J. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9001
Minor, James D. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9001
Osborne, Solomon C. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Griffith, Daniel J. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9000
Hannaford, Leon E. Jr. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9000 | SD-MS-0025-9001
Jacks, Jamie F (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9000
Johnson, Roy E. (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-9001
Lamar, John Thomas Jr (Mississippi)
SD-MS-0025-0001 | SD-MS-0025-9000

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