School Spotlight: Richardson School District lawsuit questions racial equality of board elections

A recently filed lawsuit isn’t just an indictment of the Richardson ISD’s system of governance, but of the board members as decision makers. Filed by former trustee David Tyson, Jr., it seeks no monetary damages, but does name each trustee individually.

Tyson says decisions made by the “perpetually monolithic board,” particularly since the federal desegregation order was lifted in 2013, “contribute to an egregious performance gap between affluent, white students attending favored schools and everyone else.”

The current system is unfair, Tyson says, because “minority-preferred candidates face a white voting bloc.” The remedy he seeks is an immediate, permanent shift from at-large to single-member districts to make the election of minority candidates more likely. His suit specifically mentions Hamilton Park as an area likely to elect a minority trustee.

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Tyson is the only minority member ever to serve on the board, despite RISD being a “majority-minority” district. About 40 percent of RISD students are Hispanic, 30 percent are white and 20 percent are black.

Tyson isn’t just saying poor schools underperform affluent schools — that’s easy to prove by test scores. At the lowest-performing eight elementary schools (including Audelia Creek, Forest Lane, Northlake, Skyview, Stults and Thurgood Marshall in Lake Highlands), only 30 percent of students are meeting grade level in more than one subject. At the top eight (most of which are in the Pearce feeder pattern), more than 80 percent meet grade level in all subjects.

Tyson claims the RISD system of electing trustees favors affluent schools and students, and decisions made by trustees perpetuate that unfair system.

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Tyson’s attorneys and others have been successful in similar lawsuits against Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, the City of Farmers Branch and the City of Irving. These entities either lost in court or were forced to settle and now have single-member districts.

RISD has not said if they will fight the lawsuit.

The next school board election is set for May 5. Incumbent Kim Caston has announced she will run for re-election and Lake Highlands resident Jean Bono is expected to run again, as well.

No other candidates have announced intentions to challenge the incumbents as of press time.

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