Former Richardson ISD trustee David Tyson Jr.’s lawsuit alleges that the district’s method of electing trustees violates the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, and he proposes single member districts as a remedy. His complaint specifically suggests creating a district from the Hamilton Park neighborhood, indicating the area’s current and historic concentration of African-American residents makes electing at least one minority trustee more likely.
If the judge takes Tyson’s suggestion, or if RISD officials make it part of a negotiated solution which the courts accept, uniting Hamilton Park as one district will be the first time in a long time.
The Hamilton Park neighborhood was broken into pieces when the all-black Hamilton Park School was shut down in 1970 during desegregation. (The school was later reopened as Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet elementary.) During desegregation – and to this day – some students residing there were assigned to attend Richardson High, some to Berkner and some to Lake Highlands High.
Mary Bussey and Rev. Gahlen Warren, two of Hamilton Park’s original residents, spoke to me about the division when we attended the dedication ceremony for the Hamilton Park Community as a Texas historic place in May.
“It would have been difficult at that time to send all of the black students from Hamilton Park to any one school,” said the pragmatic Mrs. Bussey. “I think they felt breaking them up and sending them to three different schools would be easier for everyone to accept.”
“It wasn’t easy on the kids,” said Rev. Warren, “because children who lived right across the street from each other began attending different schools and playing on different teams.”
Seeing students who’d grown up together suddenly split into three groups was tough, the two told me, and a measure of neighborhood cohesiveness was lost.
Of course, even if RISD adopts single member districts, voting districts aren’t the same as feeder patterns, so Hamilton Park could be reunited for voting and remain divided for attendance. It’s also possible that a trustee elected from Hamilton Park would make bringing those students back together under one school roof Priority One.
Tyson’s suit requests a delay of the May 5th school board election, though the judge has not yet ruled on that issue. So far, only incumbents Kim Caston and Jean Bono have announced plans to run. The deadline to file as a candidate is this Friday.