by: Alexa Ashwell Updated:
A judge said she expects to make a ruling early next week on whether Union County Schools broke any laws when it approved a controversial redistricting plan that will move thousands of students to different schools.
A group called Citizens for Adequate Public Schools was granted a hearing Wednesday after filing a preliminary injunction motion in early July.
The 72-page motion for preliminary injunction states the board’s redistricting plan is illegal because it was not voted on in public.
It also asked the court to “enjoin any and all secret school redistricting plans.”
In March 2014, the Union County School Board made a surprise decision and voted to approve its redistricting plan. Members said it was the best way to ease overcrowding. The board also implemented a grandfather clause.
The option would allow rising eighth- and fifth-graders to remain at their current school next year as long as they had alternative transportation.
CAPS filed a lawsuit in response to the board’s vote.
The lawsuit claimed board members violated the public records act and open meetings law. The group believed members held secret meetings, intentionally withheld information and then voted without notice.
A judge denied the restraining order against the redistricting plan but agreed to a motion that would allow parents access to emails and correspondence between school board members in the months leading up to the redistricting vote. CAPS has since been filing those public records request.
On Wednesday, the judge told the court she wanted to continue the case because some records were responded to in just the last few days.
She also said she was mindful of the time constraint. The new school year is just around the corner and students will need to know which school they must attend.
“We’re doing the best we can do to comply with an incredibly large number of detailed document requests that obtain a lot of confidential information that must be removed before being submitted,” said Richard Schwartz, Union County Board of Education’s attorney.
Schwartz said in the past six months the board has received 79 requests for 143,415 pages regarding redistricting. All must be reviewed for confidential information before releasing.
CAPS said it received 10 boxes of documentation just Monday.
“It’s very frustrating as a parent,” said Joe Bochiccio, who is a lawyer representing CAPS. “Some kids don’t know what school they will be going to. It’s hard on the kids.”
On Wednesday, the judge requested each party submit a final fact finding summary to her by 5 p.m. Friday. She then promised a prompt decision on the matter by early next week.