Lawsuit claims Lewisville ISD school board elections violate Voting Rights Act

Updated 4:45 p.m.

A lawsuit filed against Lewisville ISD claims that the school district’s at-large voting system for trustees denies Hispanic, African American and Asian voters a fair opportunity to elect school board members of their choice.

Brewer Storefront filed suit in federal court on Feb. 12 on behalf of Frank Vaughan against Lewisville ISD and its trustees, alleging that the school district’s election system violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it denies fair representation to voters of color.

The suit seeks to have the current process of electing school board members at-large to be declared in violation of federal law. It also seeks to halt any future school board elections under the current system. The lawsuit states that Vaughan would like the district to replace its at-large system for board members with single-member districts.

Brewer said he is asking the district to postpone its board election scheduled for May 4, until the legality of LISD’s electoral system may be adjudicated. There are three board of trustees seats open.

“Our client believes the voting scheme utilized by Lewisville ISD unfairly denies people of color a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing—trustees that represent their interests, schools and communities,” William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer Storefront and lead counsel for plaintiff Frank Vaughan, said in a news release. “We believe the school board should adopt a more representative electoral process to serve this multiracial and ethnically diverse school district.”

LISD Chief Communications Officer Amanda Brim said Feb. 12 the district had not yet been served with the lawsuit and was unable to comment.

The Storefront successfully resolved similar Voting Rights Act cases with Richardson ISD in January 2019, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD in 2015 and Grand Prairie ISD in 2014. All districts now have revised voting systems. It also won at trial in similar suits involving Irving ISD and the cities of Irving and Farmers Branch.

LISD's seven-member school board is all white, and the district's eight-member leadership team, which includes Superintendent Kevin Rogers, also has no people of color.

That compares with more than 58 percent of the student body last school year was made up of children of color, according to the Texas Education Agency. During the 2017-2018 school year, the student population was 41.3 percent white, 29.6 percent Hispanic, 14.3 percent Asian, and 10.7 percent African American, according to the Brewer Storefront release.

Under the current electoral system, school board members are elected at large. Candidates run for specific places but do not represent a specific geographic area. Trustees serve three-year terms. The lawsuit claims the at-large system allows white residents to vote as a block and deny political opportunity to non-white voters.

The lawsuit also alleges that none of the seven trustees resides within the attendance boundary for
two of LISD’s five high schools— Lewisville High School and The Colony High School, which serve the
predominantly minority and lower income portions of the school district.
The suit also notes that an achievement gap exists between the Lewisville ISD schools that have a majority of white students and the schools that educate the mostly non-white students.

Less than a quarter of non-white students are performing at grade level while at least two-thirds of students in the majority white, predominantly affluent elementary schools are performing at grade level, the suit states.

"The board consistently prioritizes this cluster of high-performing, predominantly affluent schools at the expense of the rest of the community," according to the suit.

Vaughan, the plaintiff, is a human resources executive. He recently served as vice chair of the city of Lewisville Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee. His son is a Lewisville High School graduate, and his late wife worked as a speech therapist for LISD, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also claims an at-large system discourages minority or minority-preferred candidates from seeking office because it effectively functions as a white-controlled referendum on all candidates where a bloc of white voters controls all seven trustee positions.
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