Lawsuit filed against Frisco ISD claiming school board elections violate federal Voting Rights Act

A lawsuit filed against Frisco ISD and its six sitting board members claims the school district's elections for trustees violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The suit, filed April 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, states that the at-large system "as currently used by the district, effectively denies representation to Asian voters, Hispanic voters, African American voters and other people of color."

FISD board President John Classe and the school district said they have not received any legal notice of the lawsuit and would not comment at this time.

Each position on FISD's board of trustees is elected at large, meaning each member is chosen by voters from the entire district rather than a specific area of the district. The suit seeks to carve out smaller geographic areas with board members assigned to represent their individual area.

The six current board members are all white. The suit alleges that five Asian and two Hispanic candidates have unsuccessfully run for a seat on the board in the past four years.

FISD's latest demographics show that the district's more than 60,000 students are 41.6% white, 29.1% Asian, 13.5% Hispanic, 11% African American, 4% two or more races and less than 1% American Indian/Alaskan/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

The lawsuit was filed by Brewer Storefront on behalf of plaintiff Suresh Kumar, who lives in FISD and works as a certified public accountant. He is also a precinct chair for the Collin County Republican Party, according to the suit.

Earlier this year, Richardson ISD settled a claim brought by the same law firm, agreeing that five of its school board members will be elected to represent single districts, while two will oversee the district as a whole. RISD postponed its May school board elections to November to work out the changes for its districts.

A separate suit is pending against Lewisville ISD, which serves a portion of the city of Frisco. The lawsuit against LISD was filed in February. The district has denied claims that its at-large voting system for school board trustees puts Hispanics and other minorities at a disadvantage, according to a federal court filing on March 22.

The firm has also resolved similar claims after suing Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD in 2015 and Grand Prairie ISD in 2014. Those districts now have revised voting systems. Separate lawsuits involving Irving ISD and the cities of Irving and Farmers Branch went to trial, where the law firm's claims prevailed.

FISD has three board seats on the ballot for the May 4 election. Early voting starts April 22.

The suit against Frisco ISD states in part: "A growing suburban school district such as FISD should not be burdened by an antiquated election system from the past. The current at-large election system discriminates against many of the District’s residents – and prevents FISD from realizing a more inclusive future."

 
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