Coalition of groups sues Halifax commissioners over schools

By The Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 24, 2015 at 5:21 p.m.

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HALIFAX, N.C. (AP) — A coalition of advocacy groups and the parents of three children filed a lawsuit against the Halifax County commissioners Monday claiming the school system they created divides children along racial lines into "good" and "bad" school districts.

The 38-page lawsuit was filed in Halifax County Superior Court.

In their lawsuit, the groups say the commissioners have maintained an inefficient system that creates obstacles for local children in violation of the North Carolina constitution, which guarantee all schoolchildren the opportunity for a sound, basic education.

The suit also contends that because of the county's tax distribution method, the school system imposes a stigma of racial inferiority upon black students, undermining academic achievement and frustrating their access to quality educational resources.

Commission chairman Vernon J. Bryant said Monday that he would reserve comment until he read the lawsuit. He said commissioners will likely discuss it at their next meeting on Sept. 8.

"Our children have waited too long to receive the education that they are entitled to," Rebecca Copeland, chairwoman of the Coalition for Education and Economic Security, said in a statement.

On Aug. 11, the State Board of Education took control of the budget for Halifax County Schools to ensure compliance with a 2009 court order addressing poor academic performance.

WRAL-TV reported at the time ( ) that Chairman Bill Cobey said in a letter to the Halifax County Board of Education that all district- and school-level budgets must be turned over to the state's superintendent of public instruction by the end of next week.

The state board has been working with Halifax County since 2009, when Superior Court Judge Howard Manning called poor end-of-grade reading-test scores in area schools "academic genocide" and ordered efforts to improve student performance.

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