Pitt schools segregation lawsuit in federal court

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Nearly 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools, lawyers are set to square off in a federal courtroom in eastern North Carolina over whether the effects of that Jim Crow past still persist.

A trial was to begin Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenville in the case of Everett v. Pitt County Board of Education.

A group of black parents represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights will ask the court to reverse a 2011 student assignment plan they say effectively resegregated several schools in the district.

Lawyers for the Pitt schools will ask a judge to rule that the district has achieved "unitary status," meaning the "vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated to the extent practicable." The designation would end federal oversight of the Pitt schools, in place since the 1960s.

This case is the first of its kind brought in North Carolina since 1999. More than 100 school districts across the South are still under federal court supervision. The decision in the Pitt case is expected to be widely followed by those other school systems.

Mark Dorosin, the managing attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, said the case is a critical test of the continued viability of one of the most fundamental principles of school desegregation: That school districts still under court order must remedy the lasting vestiges of racial discrimination.

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