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Segregation Is History for Pitt County Schools

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By Peter Clarke, JD on June 08, 2015 3:56 PM

Schools in American have faced many challenges over the years. But at least they no longer have to deal with problems like racial segregation. Or, do they?

This month, the 4th Circuit Court ruled in a split decision that Pitt County Schools in North Carolina are officially desegregated. Although good news for the school district, this comes as a failure for the plaintiffs, who included African-American parents in the community.

It All Began in the 1960's

Segregation was so bad in Pitt County in the 1960s that the school system was placed under federal oversight. The school system cooperated by implementing a desegregation plan with the objective of obtaining "unitary status."

In a recent lawsuit, African-American parents claimed that the school system's most recent reassignment plan would in fact increase segregation. During this dispute, Pitt County Schools requested that the court should grant the system the long sought after unitary status.

By granting this status, the court effectively said that Pitt County had successfully desegregated the school system. This marks an end of an era when the system was subject to the federal desegregation plan.

Without this plan, will progress still be made? Clearly there's still tension; otherwise, the African-American parents wouldn't have brought this recent lawsuit in the first place.

Why the Court Decided to Grant Unitary Status

The decision was split 2-1 in Everett v. Pitt County Board of Education, so presumably there are some reasons to doubt that Pitt County was ready for unitary status. Here's what the dissenting judge had to say:

"The rapid rate of de facto resegregation in our public school system in recent decades is well-documented. As one scholar put it, 'Schools are more segregated today than they have been for decades, and segregation is rapidly increasing.'"

Even the majority acknowledged that Pitt County is far from perfect, stating that there is still progress to be made. However, the court is convinced that the desegregation plan has eliminated early segregation "to the maximum extent practicable" and that new instances of segregation have been addressed appropriately by the respective school boards.

Hopefully Pitt County will continue to fight against segregation, even without the former desegregation plan in place.

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