Wake County Schools

Appeals court says challenge to new Wake school board districts can proceed

Posted May 27, 2015

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, has proposed new Wake County school districts.
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— A federal judge was wrong to dismiss a legal challenge to new voting districts for the Wake County Board of Education, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

State lawmakers passed legislation two years ago to add two regional districts to the seven single-member districts on the school board. One of the new districts represents the urban core of the county, while the other represents the outlying, more rural areas.

The changes were made after Democrats seized control of the board from Republicans in 2011, and the board fought against the changes backed by GOP lawmakers. Thirteen Wake County voters and two community groups eventually filed suit over the changes, alleging that the redrawn districts favor rural voters over urban ones by packing more people into some districts than others and that the plan split too many precincts, making the districts confusing.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle dismissed the lawsuit last year, ruling that the districts met constitutional muster.

In a 2-1 decision, the 4th Circuit sent the lawsuit back to Boyle for trial.

"At the end of the day, we cannot say whether Plaintiffs will ultimately succeed with their equal protection claim. But we can say that they have made allegations sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state such a claim. The district court erred in holding otherwise," Judge James Wynn Jr. wrote for the majority.

The General Assembly last month approved new districts for the Wake County Board of Commissioners – again after Democratic electoral gains – that are pattered after the school board districts. Those districts have likewise been challenged.

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