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All opinions are subject to modification and technical correction prior to official publication in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports. In the event of discrepancies between the electronic version of an opinion and the print version appearing in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports, the latest print version is to be considered authoritative.
Filed: 20 November 2007
TODD BROWN, GINGER BROWN, individually and as next friends to
Mackayla Brown and Gracie Brown, minor children; ERIC RITTER,
individually and as next friend to Curt Ritter, minor child;
WAYNE COBLE, HEATHER COBLE, individually and as next friends to
Megan Coble and Holly Coble, minor children; DARIN KIDD, CATHY
KIDD, individually and as next friends to William Joseph Kidd and
David Kidd, minor children; TERRY CURTIS BARBERY, SHERRY BROWN
BARBERY, individually and as next friends to Bryant Andrew
Barbery and Torry Sheree Barbery, minor children; BRYAN JOHNSON,
KIMBERLY JOHNSON, individually and as next friends to Michael
John Robinson and Bryan Hunter Johnson, minor children; DONALD
SHELTON, GLORIA SHELTON, individually and as next friends to
Buddy Baker, minor child; ELIZABETH CHRISCO, individually and as
next friend to Frank Chrisco and Tony Chrisco, minor children;
WALTER H. JONES, JR., LISA C. JONES, individually and as next
friends to Casey Jones, Chase Jones, and Cory Jones, minor
children; DANNY OLDHAM, PAULA OLDHAM, individually and as next
friends to Dalton Keith Oldham, minor child; SHAWN CULBERSON,
DEANNA CULBERSON, individually and as next friends to Jordan
Culberson, Allie Grace Culberson, and Maggie Culberson, minor
children; KEITH SUITS, DARLENE SUITS, individually and as next
friends to Dalton Suits and Riley Suits, minor children, MARK
BRADY, JENNIFER DENISE BRADY, individually and as next friends to
Samantha Brady and Lauren Brady, minor children; BRAD MOODY,
JENNIFER MOODY; PAUL POWERS, TAMMY TYSINGER, individually and as
next friends to Dylan Powers, minor child; WILLIAM E. BRADY,
DEBORAH BRADY, individually and as next friends to Landon Brady,
minor child; and SIMILARLY SITUATED CURRENT STUDENTS OR POTENTIAL
SCHOOL AGE STUDENTS RESIDING ON THE RANDOLPH COUNTY SIDE OF THE
BENNETT SCHOOL ATTENDANCE ZONE AS DEFINED BY S.B. 233 OF THE
SESSIONS LAWS OF 1979, Plaintiffs, v. CHATHAM COUNTY BOARD OF
EDUCATION and SUPERINTENDENT ANN HART, in her official capacity,
1. Schools and Education_consolidated school district_agreement between
counties_nullification by state law
A 1931 agreement between two counties that created a consolidated school district for
students living in both counties was nullified when the General Assembly established a general
and uniform system of schools by its enactment of N.C.G.S. § 115-352(1943).
2. Schools and Education-_attendance in another county_prerequisites
Under North Carolina law, students residing in Randolph County have no right to attend
schools located in Chatham County without release from Randolph County, acceptance by
Chatham County, and payment of a tuition charged at the discretion of the Chatham County
Board of Education. N.C.G.S. §§ 115C-366(a) and (b); N.C.G.S. § 115C-366.1.
Appeal by plaintiffs from order entered 28 June 2006 by Judge
Carl R. Fox in Superior Court, Chatham County. Heard in the Court
of Appeals 21 August 2007.
Stacey B. Bawtinhimer, for plaintiffs-appellants.
Tharrington Smith, L.L.P., by Kenneth A. Soo and Christine T.
Scheef, for defendants-appellees.
Under North Carolina law, students residing in one county may
attend the public schools of another county only if they are
released by their home school board, accepted by the other school
board, and pay whatever tuition is required by that school board
for out-of-county students.
(See footnote 1)
Here, the plaintiffs, who reside in
Randolph County, contend their children should be allowed to attend
schools close to their homes but located in neighboring Chatham
County without paying tuition, because a 1931 agreement allegedly
created a consolidated school district between the counties.
Because the General Assembly nullified the existence of the
consolidated district when it established a general and uniform
system of schools, we affirm the trial court's order of summary
Plaintiffs are a group of parents and their minor children who
live in the so-called Bennett Attendance Zone, an area around the
Town of Bennett that is comprised of property in Randolph and
Chatham Counties. Despite their residence in Randolph County, theminor children either have attended, currently attend, or plan to
attend the Bennett School, which is physically located in Chatham
County. This practice of allowing Randolph County children who
also reside in Bennett to attend the Bennett School has been in
place since 1931, when the Chatham and Randolph County School
Boards agreed -- with the approval of county commissioners, the
State Board of Education, and the State Equalization Board -- to
consolidate their schools and establish a single school in Bennett
for children from both counties. However, on 12 December 2005, the
Chatham County School Board issued a policy to have any out-of-
county students pay $500.00 in tuition to continue to attend
Chatham County schools, including the Bennett School.
In response to this policy, Plaintiffs filed a complaint on 11
January 2006 against Defendants Chatham County Board of Education
and Superintendent of Schools Ann Hart in her official capacity,
seeking a declaratory judgment striking down the policy.
Plaintiffs also sought preliminary and permanent injunctions
prohibiting the imposition of a tuition fee or any limitation on
attendance of the Bennett School by Randolph County students living
in the Bennett Attendance Zone. Defendants responded by filing a
motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on 28
June 2006, finding that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.
Plaintiffs appeal from that judgment, arguing that (I)
questions of material fact remain as to whether the Bennett
Attendance Zone was still in existence after the passage of N.C.Gen. Stat. § 115-352 (1943); and (II) Randolph County students who
reside in the Bennett Attendance Zone are entitled as a matter of
law to attend the Bennett School without being subject to a tuition
fee or capacity limitation.
 Plaintiffs first contend that questions of material fact
remain as to whether the Bennett Attendance Zone was still in
existence after the passage of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115-352 (1943),
such that summary judgment was not properly granted by the trial
court. We disagree.
In 1933, the General Assembly passed legislation that
abolished [a]ll school districts, special tax, special charter or
otherwise, as now constituted for school administration or for tax
levying purposes and designated counties as the administrative
units for schools in North Carolina, except for in cities. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 115-562(4) (1933). Ten years later, another statute
was enacted that provided that all school districts, special tax,
special charter, or otherwise, as constituted on May 15, 1933, are
hereby declared non-existent as of that date[.] N.C. Gen. Stat. §
115-352 (1943). This legislation was passed as the State moved to
establish a general and uniform system of schools, based on county
administrative units and overseen by a state agency.
Also in 1943, the General Assembly directed that [s]chool
districts may be formed out of portions of contiguous counties by
agreement of the county boards of education of the respective
counties subject to the approval of the state board of education. Id. § 115-198. However, if such a district was formed, the pro
rata part of the public school money due for teaching the children
residing in one county shall be apportioned by the county board of
education of that county, and paid to the treasurer of the other
county in which the schoolhouse is located[.] Id. Although
Plaintiffs assigned error to the trial court's finding that simply
restates that portion of the statute, they offered no proof of an
agreement subsequent to the 1931 agreement between the Randolph and
Chatham County School Boards, nor of approval by the state board of
education of any such agreement. Furthermore, Plaintiffs have not
shown that Randolph County ever paid Chatham County a pro rata
share of public school money, as required by the statute if such a
school district was officially formed. Plaintiffs' sole offer of
evidence as to the ongoing existence of the Bennett Attendance
Zone consists of the customary practices of the two school boards,
rather than any legally binding documents or formally recognized
Moreover, in 1979, the General Assembly ratified a bill
entitled, An Act to require the Randolph County Board of Education
to release and the Chatham Board of Education to accept certain
pupils in the Bennett Attendance Zone. 1979 N.C. Sess. Laws Ch.
793. The law described the Bennett Attendance Zone and directed
Randolph County to release from attendance those students who are
presently attending the Chatham County Schools, who reside in the
Bennett Attendance Zone, and who request such release. Id.
Chatham County was then directed to accept such pupils forattendance. Id. According to legislative history documents
included in the record before us, the language those students who
are presently attending . . . who reside [in the Bennett Attendance
Zone was changed from an earlier version of the bill, which had
referenced all pupils residing within the [Bennett Attendance
Zone]. In a finding of fact unchallenged on appeal, the trial
court found that this legislation was introduced and passed in
response to the Randolph County Board of Education's refusal in the
1960s and 1970s to release Randolph County students living in the
Bennett Attendance Zone to attend schools in Chatham County. See
Koufman v. Koufman, 330 N.C. 93, 97, 408 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1991)
(Where no exception is taken to a finding of fact by the trial
court, the finding is presumed to be supported by competent
evidence and is binding on appeal.).
We are unpersuaded by Plaintiffs' contention that the 1933 and
1943 legislation had no effect on the Bennett Attendance Zone and
the agreement between Randolph and Chatham Counties. Indeed, as
found by the trial court and unchallenged by Plaintiffs in their
The General Assembly in enacting the 
law thus recognized the Bennett Attendance
Zone students as students required to request
release from Randolph County Schools and
acceptance by Chatham County schools and did
not view those students as residents or
domiciliaries of the Chatham County school
administrative unit or a Chatham County
Schools district entitled to attend the
Chatham County schools.
We note, too, that when construing the meaning of a statute, we
must ascertain the legislative intent to assure that the purposeand intent of the legislation are carried out. Fowler v.
Valencourt, 334 N.C. 345, 348, 435 S.E.2d 530, 532 (1993) (citation
omitted). The first step in that process requires us to look to
the statutory language to determine if its meaning is plain and
clear. Id. Moreover, the rules of statutory construction direct
us to give significance and effect to every part of the act,
including every section, paragraph, sentence or clause, phrase, and
word. Hall v. Simmons, 329 N.C. 779, 784, 407 S.E.2d 816, 818
(1991) (quotation and citation omitted).
The language of the 1979 bill could not be any plainer in
terms of its intent to compel Randolph County to release students
residing in the Bennett Attendance Zone and presently attending
school in Chatham County, and likewise to require Chatham County to
accept them as pupils. The 1979 legislation would have no force or
effect were we to accept Plaintiffs' position that the Bennett
Attendance Zone was still in existence as a school district
following the 1933 and 1943 legislation. Likewise, as found by the
trial court and unchallenged on appeal, students residing in the
Bennett Attendance Zone have been required to pay a small tuition
to Chatham County for a number of years without objection;
Plaintiffs' position is only asserted now that the amount of the
tuition has risen dramatically as Chatham County seeks to limit the
number of out-of-county students.
Accordingly, we find that no genuine issue of material fact
remains as to the question of whether the Bennett Attendance Zone
is still in existence. See Bruce-Terminix Co. v. Zurich Ins. Co.,130 N.C. App. 729, 733, 504 S.E.2d 574, 577 (1998) (citation
omitted) (summary judgment is properly granted when the evidence,
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, shows
no genuine issue of material fact). This assignment of error is
 Plaintiffs also argue that Randolph County students who
reside in the Bennett Attendance Zone are entitled as a matter of
law to attend Bennett Elementary School without being subject to a
tuition fee or capacity limitation. We disagree.
Under North Carolina law, only students domiciled in a school
administrative unit are entitled to attend the unit's public
schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-366(a) (2005). If students
domiciled in one county wish to attend the public schools of
another county, they must be released by their home school board
and accepted by the school board where they wish to attend. Id.
115C-366(d). The county is permitted to charge tuition for these
out-of-county students. Id.
§ 115C-366.1 (2005).
Under the plain meaning of these statutory provisions,
students residing in Randolph County have no right to attend
schools located in Chatham County without release from Randolph
County, acceptance by Chatham County, and a tuition charged at the
discretion of the Chatham County School Board. Plaintiffs have
failed to show that the Bennett Attendance Zone is still in
existence under the law; moreover, none of the Plaintiffs-students
fall under the definition of the 1979 legislation for purposes ofrequiring Chatham County schools to allow them to attend. These
assignments of error are without merit.
Judges HUNTER and BRYANT concur.
N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 115C-366(a),(d), 115C-366.1 (2005)
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