Education

Wake school board named in lawsuit

Posted May 6, 2010
Updated May 7, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— A lawsuit filed Thursday claims the Wake County Board of Education violated state law by limiting access to a key public meeting in March in which members adopted a resolution regarding a controversial idea to change the way the school system assigns students to schools.

A group of Wake County citizens who filed the 100-page complaint – many who were denied access to the meeting – wants the court to invalidate the actions taken at the March 23 meeting based on violations of the state's Open Meetings Law.

Court Gavel Scales of Justice May 6 lawsuit

The board voted 5-4 that day on a directive to move forward with a plan that supports what's called community assignment zones, in which children go to schools closer to their homes, and move away from a decade-old policy of busing students so schools across the district are diverse.

The plaintiffs – represented by numerous civil rights groups and private attorneys – also want a judge to declare null and void policies and practices adopted since the meeting – including a May 4 vote on the new assignment policy.

They also want the court to require new, clear and consistent procedures be put in place to ensure that all members of the public who want to attend meetings are allowed to do so to effectively participate in the process.

"The school board's actions described in this complaint are clear violations of the Open Meetings Law," said Swain Wood, a Raleigh attorney serving as counsel for the plaintiffs. "The board should immediately put a stop to these actions, and should make it possible for all citizens to exercise their right to attend public meetings."

Michael Evans, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, had no comment Thursday on the complaint.

"We have yet to receive the lawsuit," he said. "It will be given to the board’s attorney for review and the board will take appropriate action at that time.”

Citing fire-safety concerns and complaints, the board distributed tickets to the public in advance of the March 23 meeting. Dozens of people lined the halls outside the meeting room.

The ticket policy, the lawsuit says, changed during the course of the day and that some people with tickets were told they could not leave the building or would lose their place while others were permitted to leave and return.

The complaint says the school board made no effort to make it possible for everyone to attend, even though larger venues were available, and made no attempt to provide adequate audio or video coverage of the meeting to the public waiting outside the meeting room."

"The defendants made that decision, in part, because they wanted to limit the number of members of the public who could attend and witness the meeting," the lawsuit states.

Public outcry against the proposal led to large numbers of people – many whom had to stand – showing up at school board meetings leading up to the March 23 vote to voice their support and opposition on the issue.

Proponents of the community-based assignment model say that parents will have more choices and more involvement in their children's schooling, while opponents say the plan will create pockets of poverty and resegregate the school system.

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  • signothefish May 7, 2:33 p.m.

    bill, the problem is that the fed is overstepping their authority to enforce each citizen to pay for health insurance or face a fine. That is an unconstitutional move that rightfully should be challenged by each state. You can't have liberty and freedom with the government keeping their foot on your neck, like they want to do with BP.

    It may be legal to file these frivolous lawsuits, but in the end they accomplish nothing other than to harass the current board. It doesn't change their decision one iota, so the lawsuit is unnecessary. And suppose they do win, then the taxpayers have to flip the bill. And if they lose, the liberals flip it. I would much rather hand the bill to these socialist organizations.

  • injameswetrust2003 May 7, 1:27 p.m.

    If everyone had been let in, the lawsuit would say "School Board Violates Fire Code." Thanks for wasting taxpayer money on a frivilous lawsuit because you didn't get your way. God bless democracy!!

  • localyank May 7, 12:35 p.m.

    With their "we weren't sworn in yet, so we didn't break any laws about private meetings" bologna at the first school board meeting, the "here come the animals" comments, the no-bid hiring of a new law firm, the refusal to move this meeting, and the motion to limit what people are allowed to say, Mr. Margiotta and the rest of the board were daring anyone to sue them. I agree with superman, there will be more law suits, and this board had better learn how to act as good stewards of the public interest and not thugs and political ideologues. I don't want to see any more school district funds used to fight lawsuits; the new board has to take some responsibility for bringing on this suit by their public (and private) behavior and act accordingly.

  • superman May 7, 12:00 p.m.

    There will be other lawsuits on their way. Just as soon as the neighborhood schools plan gets its final approval from the board-- you can expect additional lawsuits. No one can file a suit on the plan yet cause it hasnt been approved yet by the board. The feds going to also approve the plan when they review the funding for the schools. It aint over until the fat lady sings and she hasnt had her chance yet.

  • superman May 7, 11:56 a.m.

    Just wait and see. This lawsuit will "STAND". They were offered a larger place and it was free. They willfully and intentionally violated the law! You remember the lawsuit from Wake Who Cares-- they took away money from the school budget too. You remember the 100k the school board threw away when they decided not to build the new high school as planned? How soon some of you forget! If the board just violated the law once-- you can easily overlook that-- but they have done it time and time again. I am sure the school attorney told them they were violating the law but they just didnt seem to care.

  • bill0 May 7, 11:06 a.m.

    For those saying it is a "typical liberal trick to sue" , were you saying the same thing when conservatives filed all sorts of lawsuits against the prior board and year round schooling? Are you cheering for states to file suits to stop "Obamacare?" Somehow, when conservatives use judges to block legislative action, it is "common sense." When liberals do the same thing, it is "activism."

    As for the open meetings laws, yes, the board is willfully violating them. However, the remedy for that is to have future meetings fully open to the public. No judge is going to overturn all the policy changes that were passed by a duly elected school board. If people want to change the policy back, they will need to help their candidates win the next election.

  • StateMom May 7, 9:52 a.m.

    Typical liberal stuff - don't vote, SUE!!!

  • NoFreakinWay May 7, 9:51 a.m.

    This lawsuit is the biggest laugh since Judge Judy's robe fell off. It will be thrown out on its rear.

  • rgsjrs May 7, 9:36 a.m.

    This lawsuit is absolutely and essentially ludicrous and could be determined by a presiding judge to be " frivolous and macicious ". The complaint that the Board had to provide space that would allow all interested Wake County citizens to attend would require seating for approximately 897,214 ( 2009 Wake Co. population ). Presumably, any meeting of Wake County appointed or elected boards and/or commissions would be required to provide that same capacity for the public if this were to found in favor of the " plaintiff". There are real and serious cases that need to be resolved by our courts without having time squandered on this inane,faux issue.

  • kre2208 May 7, 9:16 a.m.

    Well here comes another lawsuit...remove more money from the budget. The only ones gaining from all of this is the lawyers. Everyone is concerned about the quality of education and no one thinks about safety. You have buses cruising the highways during early morning traffic with not one single kid secured in place wiht a seat belt. Try that is a car or truck and you get a ticket. But you have those complaining to willingly put their children in danger each and every day.

    Remember a couple of years ago when children were stranded at school because of the conditions of the roads, I bet yoou that most of the children were ones bused in from another community.

    No one mentions the gang influence brought (and spread) from busing.

    What about an "Equal Education Policy" where all the schools have the same education, test, and equipment.

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