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Judge rejects Union parents’ latest move to stop redistricting

A judge on Wednesday rejected the latest effort by Union County parents to stop the school district’s controversial redistricting plan, and one of the parents said he expects his group will now drop its lawsuit.

“The court finds no basis to conclude that the approval of the reassignment plan was unconstitutional and/or arbitrary or capricious,” Judge Lucy Inman wrote in a 21-page opinion.

She also stated that the school board had made good-faith efforts to comply with state public records and open meetings laws.

This was the second consecutive legal loss for the parents. Their request for a temporary restraining order was rejected in March.

Inman’s ruling on the request for a preliminary injunction followed a hearing on the issue last week.

Inman wrote that she understood parents’ frustration but suggested their complaints would be better resolved “at the ballot box.”

Chris Bernard, one of the plaintiffs, said he believes the group of parents will agree this week to move to end the lawsuit “for the good of the kids and the parents.” The start of school is about a month away.

But Bernard said he believes future school boards will be more responsive to community concerns on redistricting as a result of the suit challenging the board’s actions. “Hopefully we were able to knock some of the arrogance off of them a little bit,” he said.

School board Chair Richard Yercheck said he was pleased by the judge’s ruling and was looking forward for staff to turn away from the lawsuit and return to the business of helping kids.

The redistricting was designed to ease overcrowding by sending several thousand students to less-crowded schools. Much of the overcrowding is in the fast-growing western portion of the county. There are about 42,000 students in the school district.

Parents have said they did not want to have their children’s lives upended by switching schools, as well as possibly dealing with longer bus rides or schools with lower test scores. Others worried that redistricting would lead to lower property values.

The school board, in a surprise vote, approved the redistricting plan in March. The parents group Citizens For Adequate Public Schools sued to stop the move, claiming it was developed in secret and then illegally approved by school board members reading from prepared scripts.

They later claimed that redistricting maps were improperly changed after the March vote to benefit developers, influential churches and prominent individuals, but they did not name anyone in those groups.

The school board denied all of the parents’ claims and insisted it has done nothing wrong.

With the parents looking to end their lawsuit, school board attorney Richard Schwartz said he hopes it will begin a time of healing in the school district.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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