“A group of parents from East Ramapo have sued the school district, saying that the at-large voting system used to elect members to the school board has led to a lack of representation by minorities.
Filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the suit demands no further school board elections be held until a ward system made up of nine single-member districts is in place.
The plaintiffs, including seven black or Latino voters, as well as the Spring Valley NAACP, claim East Ramapo is in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. In addition to the school board, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is listed as a defendant.
“We see at-large voting elsewhere in the state, but nowhere have the consequences been so devastating and nowhere have we seen a school board so hostile to public education,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said at a news conference Thursday morning.
The majority of school districts in New York use an “at-large” approach, which means voters can select for any candidate in the district, though some districts have slight variations to allow for a mix of members from wards and picked at-large.
In East Ramapo, which has been under state oversight for about two years, some 24,700 children are spread across more than 140 private schools, mainly yeshivas. About 8,500 students, mostly black or Latino, are enrolled in the public schools.
Currently, eight of the nine seats are held by parents who send their children to private schools. Despite a number of candidates from the minority community running for school board in recent years, not one has won a contested seat since 2007.”
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