May 19th, 1994

Justice Department Sues After Principal Threatens to Cancel Prom Due to Interracial Couples

On February 24, 1994, Hulond Humphries, principal of Randolph County High School in Wedowee, Alabama, announced at a student assembly that the school's prom would be canceled if interracial couples attended. When a biracial student stood and asked whom she was allowed to date, Mr. Humphries reportedly told her that her conception had been a mistake and that he hoped to prevent others from making the same error as her parents. Mr. Humphries's threat and remarks divided the community along racial lines, with most African American residents calling for his removal and many whites defending his position.

School board members declined to formally investigate the principal's conduct and parents of African American students at the high school called on the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to intervene. On May 19, 1994, after several weeks of investigation, DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Randolph County School Board, citing its repeated violation of a racial desegregation order in place since 1970. DOJ's investigation uncovered a pattern of racial discrimination by school administrators that extended beyond the school's extracurricular activities into its student disciplinary practices and hiring and promotion decisions.

In January 1995, DOJ settled the case after the school board agreed to address its discriminatory practices and suspended Mr. Humphries from campus for two years. The settlement did not require the school to dismiss Mr. Humphries and, to the dismay of many African American community members, he continued to work as a school district administrator. In July 1997, one month after his suspension ended, Mr. Humphries was elected Superintendent of the Randolph County School Board.