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SCHOOL BOARD SUED: NERSBA seeks injunction to prevent Beaufort County withdrawal

JAMESVILLE — The Northeast Regional School for Biotechnology and Agriscience filed a lawsuit Thursday to block the Beaufort County Board of Education from withdrawing as a participating school district in the school, according to a press release from attorney Emily G. Massey, with the firm Ward and Smith P.A.

The school system’s withdrawal, which was unanimously approved by the Beaufort County Board of Education during its Feb. 20 meeting, would prevent students living in Beaufort County from attending NERSBA beginning with the 2018-19 freshman class.

The lawsuit, filed in Martin County Superior Court, asks the court to stop the BCS Board from depriving students living Beaufort County from attending NERSBA, until the court can decide whether the BCS Board is violating North Carolina law.

In particular, the lawsuit says that the state statute authorizing creation of a regional school does not allow the BCS Board to withdraw unilaterally from NERSBA as a participating school district.

On March 14, three North Carolina legislators, N.C. Senator Harry Brown, N.C. Senator Bill Cook and N.C. House of Representatives Beverly Boswell, addressed a letter to the BOE urging members to reverse their vote to withdraw. The letter stated that as the law is written, there is currently no mechanism for withdrawal by a school system.

The lawsuit filed by NERSBA emphasizes that irreparable harm will result from the BCS Board’s complete withdrawal from NERSBA.

“This action not only affects students enrolled in Beaufort County public schools but any student living in Beaufort County,” the release states. “For example, students living in Beaufort County who are home-schooled or attend private or charter schools will be unable to apply to attend NERSBA for high school.”

“NERSBA is committed to providing advanced, innovative education to students in Beaufort, Martin, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington counties,” NERSBA Principal Hal Davis was quoted in the release. “The Beaufort County Board of Education’s decision to pull out of NERSBA is extremely disappointing, but NERSBA will fight to ensure students living in Beaufort County will continue to benefit from our school.”

Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps responded to the impending litigation on Thursday afternoon saying, “We are aware the NERSBA board directed its attorney to file a lawsuit against BCS during its board meeting last month, but currently the (Beaufort County Board of Education) has not been served with a lawsuit.”