School lobby, Birmingham BOE members file lawsuit against state

School lobby, Birmingham BOE members file lawsuit against state board

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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Five plaintiffs have filed a federal lawsuit against former state Superintendent Ed Richardson and the Alabama Department of Education.

The lawsuit was announced Thursday afternoon. The 12-page lawsuit argues that Birmingham voters have been disenfranchised by the state takeover of the Birmingham School system.

It says Bice, Richardson and the state school board used the authority of its takeover to deprive Birmingham voters of their control of their education system.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the state school board and is asking the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to take up the case.

READ: AEA lawsuit against Ed Richardson and the Alabama Department of Education (PDF)

The plaintiffs in the case include two Birmingham Board of Education members, Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford, two Birmingham citizens, and one AEA official.

"If Dr. Richardson likes what the board does the vote stands, if they disagree then he overrides them," AEA official Gregory Graves said.

Graves accuses Dr. Richardson of ruling the entire school system.

"It's regarding school board meetings, voting on issues only to have Dr. Richardson say I'm going to evoke my authority," Graves said.

Edward Still, the attorney for the plaintiffs, says Bice and Richardson are abusing their power and he hopes the lawsuit will stop it.

He claims race has something to do this and as a result suit is being filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It points out that Birmingham is a majority black city with a majority black school board, and the state Board of Education has a white majority.

"Birmingham is a majority black city, majority black student population and we believe that they're being treated differently than school boards in other parts of the state with white majority," Still said.

Dr. Richardson says the intervention is consistent with state law that's been on the books since 1995.

"The state superintendent and state board carefully followed the law, what it requires to do before intervention. I just see this as another effort by AEA to fight any accountibility standards that come up," Richardson said.

Dr. Tommy Bice says he has not had the opportunity to read the lawsuit but he adds, "it will not deter efforts to place birmingham city schools on a stable path for the future."

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