Law firm sues LISD over school board elections

A lawsuit was filed on Feb. 12 against LISD because the current school board election system doesn’t require members to live in the area that they represent. Though more than 58 percent of LISD students are minorities, the board is made up of seven white women. The suit alleges that this at-large voting system allows white residents to vote as a block, which is unfair to minority voters.
The lawsuit also states that none of the school board members currently live within the boundary for Lewisville and The Colony High School, two out of the five LISD high schools. These schools serve the predominantly low-income and minority parts of the district.

“The district believes board members, both past and present, make decisions based on what is best for all LISD students,” LISD Chief Communications Officer Amanda Brim stated in an email. “Where they personally reside has not been a factor in those decisions.”

The law firm Brewer Storefront filed suit on behalf of Frank Vaughan, alleging that LISD’s election system violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since it denies fair representation to voters of color. According to the suit, this results in minority children receiving a second-rate education compared to their peers. The evidence they mention is that the lowest performing schools in the district are those that serve poor, Hispanic children while the highest performing schools are those in more affluent, white areas where the trustees live.

However, Brim’s statement says that LISD’s system has worked for many years and provided students with equal opportunities.
“It is an indisputable fact that regardless of zip code, all LISD students have equal access to educational resources and extracurricular opportunities,” Brim states. “The district’s leadership team combined has nearly 100 years of service to LISD and its students, and has demonstrated time and time again its dedication to ensuring all students are provided the tools they need to thrive.”

According to a news release from Brewer Storefront, Vaughan is a humans resources executive who is active in his community. His son graduated from Lewisville High School and his late wife worked as a speech therapist for LISD. He stated that, without proper representation of minorities, the district is failing to meet the needs of the entire community.

Lead counsel for Vaughan, William A. Brewer stated in a news release that his client believes that “Lewisville ISD unfairly denies people of color a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing – trustees that represent their interests, schools and communities.”

Trustees serve three year terms and three seats are on the ballot for the upcoming school board election on May 4. The law firm is asking LISD to hold off on the elections until the lawsuit is resolved.

Junior Sarah Saleem said she sees the benefit in changing the district’s election system.

“I really like the idea of switching to a geographic system because if we just have voices from Marcus and Flower Mound, there is a bias towards funding for other schools,” Saleem said. “Other cities aren’t being represented, which is really important.”

Junior Asher Sprayman is a supporter of the popular vote system and doesn’t think this new system should go in place.

“The fact that they don’t live in the areas of whom they represent is beyond their control,” Sprayman said. “If people wanted somebody who was from their area they would have voted for someone who was from their area.”

Brewer Storefront has filed several other lawsuits against school districts regarding the same issue including Richardson ISD earlier this year, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD in 2015 and Grand Prairie ISD in 2014. These districts have now remodeled their voting systems.

In Brim’s statement, she mentions that LISD’s election system will be reviewed in court.

“While LISD asserts that its current election system has not impeded its ability to provide all students with a world class education, the district will provide the courts with the relevant facts to determine whether the district’s current approach meets the legal requirements for representation,” Brim stated.