Unitary Status and Pitt County SchoolsOn September 25, 2013, U.S. Senior District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard issued an order granting the Pitt County Board of Education's motion for declaration of unitary status.The decision confirmed that Pitt County Schools has eliminated the effects of past segregation to the extent practicable and lifted the school system from more than 40 years of court supervision of student assignment and other decisions.On June 3, 2015, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 2013 decision with a 2-1 ruling that there was no clear error in the district court ruling.BackgroundThe case arose from desegregation orders issued by courts in 1970 following a pair of trials claiming the Pitt County schools and Greenville City Schools were racially segregated. In the 1970's, Judge John D. Larkins Jr. approved desegregation plans for both school systems and retained court jurisdiction. For almost 40 years, the cases remained dormant. Pitt County Schools and Greenville City Schools merged in 1986.In 2006, The Greenville Parents Association complained to the federal government that the Pitt County Board of Education violated the Constitution by considering race when it redistricted elementary schools in Greenville. The Board of Education argued that consideration of race was justified to comply with court orders issued in the 1970's. To resolve the complaint, the Board of Education asked the U.S. District Court to rule on the question.Judge Howard issued a ruling in the Student Assignment Case on November 4, 2009.In his ruling, Judge Howard wrote that:
“The Court APPROVES the parties’ settlement and GRANTS the School Board’s motion for judicial approval of its 2006-2007 student assignment plan and revised policy 10.107.”
Judge Howard also ordered the Board to work toward ”unitary status” writing that:
“The court ORDERS the parties to work toward attaining unitary status so that the court may relinquish jurisdiction over this case and restore to the School Board full responsibility for the operation of its schools.”The parties in the case must submit a report to the court in the Spring of 2013, which details the Board’s efforts and progress toward unitary status.
What is Unitary Status?
A school district is unitary when it has eliminated the effects of past segregation to the extent practicable. When courts declare a school system unitary, the court system no longer supervises the school system’s student assignment and other decisions.
Presentation on Unitary Status - Presented on May 17, 2010 by School Board Attorney Ken Soo, Tharrington Smith, LLP
PCS’ administration looked at information about the school system’s progress in the areas outlined by Attorney Ken Soo. Those areas included student assignment, quality of education, faculty and staff assignments, physical facilities, transportation and extracurricular activities.As the administration reviewed the status of each area, deficiencies identified were addressed in recommendations to the Board of Education for administrative or programmatic changes. Information regarding those recommendations and reports as they are presented to the Pitt County Board of Education is listed below.Faculty and Staff Assignments - October 4, 2010Transportation - November 15, 2010Facilities - January 18, 2011Media and Technology - February 21, 2011Unitary Status Joint Motion to Continue Final Pretrial Conference - April 5, 2013Unitary Status Motion to Continue Granted - April 10, 2013Five-day Bench Trial Held in U.S. District Court - July 22-26, 2013Pitt County Schools Declared Unitary by U.S. District Court - September 25, 2013