Herndon v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Bd. of Educ.

Decision Date19 July 1995
Docket NumberCiv. No. 1:94CV00196.
Citation899 F. Supp. 1443
PartiesAric HERNDON, a minor, by Christiana and John HERNDON, as Guardians, and in their own right, and John Reinhard, III, a minor, by John and Ellen Reinhard, as Guardians, and in their own right, Plaintiffs, v. CHAPEL HILL-CARRBORO CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION; Ken Touw, Sue Baker, Lavonda Burnette, Mary Bushnell, Judith Ortiz, Mark Royster, Ruth Royster, in their official capacities as members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education; and Neil G. Pedersen, in his official capacity as Superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina


Robert H. Edmunds, Jr., Stern, Graham & Klepfer, Greensboro, NC, William H. Mellor, III, Clint Bolick, Scott G. Bullock, Institute for Justice, Washington, DC, for Aric Herndon, Christiana Herndon, John Herndon, John Reinhard, Ellen Reinhard.

John G. McCormick, Chapel Hill, NC, Eric W. Hinson, Law Office of John G. McCormick, P.A., Chapel Hill, NC, for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education, Ken Touw, Sue Baker, Lavonda Burnette, Mary Bushnell, Judith Ortiz, Mark Royster, Ruth Royster, Neil G. Pedersen.

Richard A. Schwartz, Richard Schwartz & Associates, Raleigh, NC, Joseph R. Guerra, Dennis D. Hirsch, Sidley & Austin, Washington, DC, Robert Teir, American Alliance for Rights & Responsibilities, Washington, DC, for Kate Breen, Amy Cloud, Amy Rouse.


BULLOCK, Chief Judge.

This case, involving a program in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System requiring students to perform fifty (50) hours of unpaid community service outside of the normal school hours during their high school years as a condition of their graduation, comes before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by all parties. Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Program violates the United States Constitution and an injunction against its implementation. Plaintiffs contend that the Program is unconstitutional because: (1) it constitutes involuntary servitude prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment; (2) it violates plaintiff parents' right to direct the upbringing and education of their children in violation of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) it deprives plaintiff students of their personal liberty in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (4) it violates the privacy rights of plaintiff students in violation of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. Because the court finds that the Program is not unconstitutional on any of the grounds raised by Plaintiffs, summary judgment will be granted for Defendants on all of Plaintiffs' claims.


The parties have stipulated to most of the facts crucial to the disposition of this case, and the material facts are undisputed. Plaintiffs are students, and the parents and guardians of students, in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System. Suit is brought by the parents and guardians in their own behalf and in behalf of the students.

Defendant Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education is a governmental agency and body corporate organized under the education code of North Carolina, N.C.Gen.Stat. § 115C-40. Its members are charged with administering the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School System. The system's high school, Chapel Hill High School, is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and had a 1994-95 enrollment of 2,061 students in grades nine through twelve. Defendants Ken Touw, Sue Baker, Lavonda Burnette, Mary Bushnell, Judith Ortiz, Mark Royster, and Ruth Royster were, at the time this action was filed, individuals holding elective office as members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education and each is sued in his or her official capacity.

At the time this action was filed, Defendant Neil G. Pedersen was superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and an agent and employee of Defendant Board of Education. Defendant Pedersen is sued in his official capacity.

Beginning with the graduating class of 1997, students enrolled in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System are required to complete fifty (50) hours of community service during grades nine through twelve as a condition to receiving a diploma.1 Failure to complete the Program makes a student ineligible for graduation and the Program does not contain an opt-out provision for students who object to performing community service. The community service required by the Program must be performed after school, on weekends or holidays, or over summer recesses. Students are required to perform a minimum of two different types of service. Clerical work is limited to no more than eight (8) hours, as are fundraising activities. The community service coordinator at Chapel Hill High School keeps on file a list of approved agencies and organizations for whom students may work to satisfy the requirements of the Program. The list of organizations for which students may work is extensive and includes many with significantly different purposes and philosophies.2

Students may also receive credit for service performed for organizations which are not included on the list of approved organizations. However, in order for a student to receive credit for service performed for an organization not included on the list, a student must receive approval from the Service Learning Committee, a group of teachers, students, and members of community organizations charged with administering the Program. Ultimately, however, the principal of the high school is the final decision-maker concerning community service credit.

Services for which students receive monetary compensation or which are required as a form of restitution cannot be used to satisfy the requirements of the Program. Credit may not be received for service to a for-profit organization unless the service provides a benefit to the clients of such organization that they otherwise would not receive. Service provided to a group such as a church or student club, which primarily benefits the organization's members, will not be approved. Neither may activities that promote political parties or individual candidates be credited. Students must set their own work schedule and provide their own transportation to and from the location at which they perform community service. The organizations for which students perform their services are responsible for providing any training or necessary supervision. When students arrive to perform their service, students must sign in with the organization and a contact person with the organization must document the hours the student works. Students are required to turn verified time sheets in to the school. Each time a student performs service for an organization, he or she is thereafter required to reflect on any "memories or special feelings" gained from the particular service experience. After students complete the fifty (50) hours of required service, they must submit a one-to-two-page paper reflecting on their service experiences.


Plaintiffs allege that the Program imposes involuntary servitude upon plaintiff students in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs base this allegation on the fact that Defendants have conditioned the receipt of a public high school diploma on the students having to work for others against their will without compensation.

The Thirteenth Amendment declares that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." U.S. Const. amend. XIII, § 1. Although Section 2 authorizes Congress to enact legislation to enforce the Amendment, the Amendment has been held to be "self-executing without any ancillary legislation, so far as its terms are applicable to any existing state of circumstances." Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 20, 3 S.Ct. 18, 28, 27 L.Ed. 835 (1883). The Thirteenth Amendment was adopted to eliminate slavery and "those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery which in practical operation would tend to produce like undesirable results." Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328, 332, 36 S.Ct. 258, 259, 60 L.Ed. 672 (1916). The purpose of the Thirteenth Amendment was "not merely to end slavery but to maintain a system of completely free and voluntary labor throughout the United States." Pollock v. Williams, 322 U.S. 4, 17, 64 S.Ct. 792, 799, 88 L.Ed. 1095 (1944).

The Supreme Court early recognized that the government may legitimately require its citizens to perform certain services for the benefit of the common good without violating the Thirteenth Amendment because of historical exclusions from the Thirteenth Amendment which allow their imposition. See Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366, 390, 38 S.Ct. 159, 165, 62 L.Ed. 349 (1918) (upholding the government's power to compel military service); Butler, 240 U.S. at 332-33, 36 S.Ct. at 258-59 (upholding a state law that required men to work on the roads and bridges of the state, stating that the Thirteenth Amendment "was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the State, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc."); Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 282-88, 17 S.Ct. 326, 329-31, 41 L.Ed. 715 (1897) (upholding a state statute authorizing the punishment and return of deserting seamen in the merchant service).

Lower federal courts have also recognized that a state may require its citizens to provide certain types of public service because of a civic duty owed to the state by its citizens or because of the public benefit conferred by the service. See, e.g., Brogan v. San Mateo County, 901 F.2d 762, 764 (9th Cir.1990) (upholding a county's workfare program whereby the receipt of public assistance was conditioned on the recipient's participation in a county work program); Delgado v. Milwaukee...

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2 cases
  • Herndon by Herndon v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Bd. of Educ.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • 11 Julio 1996
    ...the fifty (50) hours of required service, they must submit a one-to-two-page paper reflecting on their service experiences. 899 F.Supp. 1443, 1446-47 (1995) (citation to appendix The plaintiffs do not appeal the district court's finding that the service requirement does not intrude on the s......
  • Ohio Ass'n of Independent Schools v. Goff
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • 25 Septiembre 1996
    ...on private school education implicate a fundamental right warranting strict scrutiny. See, e.g., Herndon v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Bd. of Educ., 899 F.Supp. 1443, 1451 (M.D.N.C.1995) ("Because Plaintiffs' objection to the Program arises out of purely secular concerns, the right asserted ......

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