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

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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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  1. I would like to know why you failed to point out the percentage of students that are African American? It’s 15.8%. This is a higher percent than Hispanic! Why isn’t there a movement to ensure they are represented? I find it odd that they weren’t mentioned at all.

    • Lindsey Juarez

      Becky,
      Thank you for pointing this out. We have added the percent of African American students for clarity.
      Lindsey Juarez, editor

  2. The omission of the percentage was unfortunate there, but in fairness, African Americans are mentioned earlier in the article as an affected population: “…effectively denies representation to Asian voters, Hispanic voters, African American voters and other people of color.”

    Either way, this is not a good look for FISD.

  3. I’d like to know if Mr Kumar sought out this law firm or vice versa. I have a feeling since this law firm has done this before, they’re just stirring up trouble to make money for themselves. The ones who are truly being hurt are the kids whose district is losing money to defend itself.

  4. The students are being hurt by not having representation and being connected to a system that largely reduces the likelihood of inclusion. These students are learning to challenge tradition when it’s not serving the greater good even it if makes others uncomfortable.

  5. Per the FISD website:
    White: 41.64%
    Asian: 29.14%
    Hispanic: 13.51%
    African American: 11.02%
    Two or more races: 4.07%
    American Indian/Alaskan: 0.53%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.09%

  6. Princeton is probably next. The district is majority Hispanic and has never had a single Hispanic on the school board.

  7. Facts to consider:
    1) Membership at Large voting is banned from all Federal elections.
    2) The Supreme Court has repeatedly found Membership at Large Discriminatory and has issued judgments to end Membership at Large practices at local governments when brought to the courts.
    3) The City Charter decides the voting process for a local government entity.
    4) Elected officials have the option to end membership at large. If not then Citizens have the right to challenge the practice in the form of a lawsuit.
    5) Grand Prairie, Richardson, and other North Texas Cities have been sued and lost or settle to end membership at large.
    6) Membership at Large allows voters outside of a specific determined precinct zone, (Council or Board member place 1-6 in a regular election would have specific precincts they represent), to vote for the representative of that precinct but do not reside in that precinct. Like allowing Dallas voters to vote for Frisco City Council members.

    No matter what other arguments there are, the Federal government and the Supreme Court has the final say on the matter. It is just unfortunate that it has to be worked out by the courts.

  8. Inclusion and diversity are chasing down the last white person, a code word for white genocide. It’s disturbing how white people are being discriminated against and forced into a minority in their own towns, cities and country their ancestors founded. How much longer are they going to put up with that?

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Lindsey Juarez
Lindsey has been involved in newspapers in some form since high school. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2014 with a degree in Journalism. While attending UTA, she worked for The Shorthorn, the university's award-winning student newspaper. She was hired as Community Impact Newspaper's first Frisco reporter in 2014. Less than a year later, she took over as the editor of the Frisco edition. Since then, she has covered a variety of topics and issues important to the community, including the city's affordable housing shortage, the state's controversial A-F school accountability system and the city's "Bury the Lines" efforts.
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