Union parents claim redistricting maps illegally redrawn

07/08/2014 3:33 PM

07/08/2014 4:01 PM

Union County parents suing to stop the school district from redistricting claimed Tuesday that maps for the plan were illegally redrawn to exempt “numerous prominent individuals, land developers and influential churches.”

The parents, however, did not name any of those groups in their amended motion for a preliminary injunction.

“One would hope there isn’t some sinister motive behind” the changes, said Sam McNeil, part of the parent-run group suing the district and school board.

On March 4, the school board took a surprise vote and approved the controversial redistricting plan. It moves several thousand students to different schools to deal with crowding. The district has about 42,000 students.

Parents were upset about the disruption for their children, who could also face longer bus rides or attend schools with lower test scores. Others were worried about what the new district lines would mean for property values.

At the March meeting, the school board said rising fifth and eighth graders, and all high school students, can be exempt from redistricting while attending their current schools if their parents provide transportation. And the board allowed the Waxhaw community of Millbridge to remain in its current school cluster if a new road is built there.

An anti-redistricting group called Citizens for Adequate Public Schools, or CAPS, sued in March. They claimed the redistricting plan was illegally approved after it was developed in secret.

The board has denied the allegations.

Later in March, a judge in Union County Superior Court rejected CAPS’ motion for a temporary restraining order.

In their Tuesday motion, parents claim the redistricting plan was secretly modified by the school board or district officials after the March 4 vote. They said the current redistricting plan is illegal because it was not voted on in public.

Parents claim that revised redistricting maps published two days after the vote, that presumably were to reflect the Millbridge plan, actually had numerous other changes to benefit people or groups concerned about their property values.

The suit claims at least 180 residential and commercial properties were improperly exempted from the redistricting plan. “It’s flabbergasting that they’d make mistakes of such magnitude,” McNeil said.

He said CAPS decided not to name the prominent individuals and others because his group “wants to be respectful of all parties.”

The parents are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the redistricting implementation, a plan they claim “has been rushed, without adequate research or public transparency.”

But they also are up against the calendar, with the new school year starting Aug. 25.

School board attorney Richard Schwartz did not return calls seeking comment on the latest filing.

McNeil said the parents expect to be back in court soon, possibly July 16, for a hearing on the injunction.

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