DeKalb School Board Members Fail in Federal Court

Mar 4, 2013

The scene from the state board of education hearing about the DeKalb County school board
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

U.S. District Judge Richard Story denied a motion filed by DeKalb County school board members.

The school board asked Judge Story to rule on two arguments.

One, that the Georgia law authorizing Governor Nathan Deal to remove the school board violates the United States constitution.

The judge rejected that argument.

Also, the board contends the law violates the state constitution.

Judge Story did not rule on that.

WABE legal analyst Page Pate says that means another step.

“There still exists this other argument that they have that the statue violates the state constitution. Judge Story is a federal judge [and] thinks that’s it’s better that question go to the state supreme court."

Pate adds the Georgia Supreme Court is much more accustomed to hearing constitutional challenges based on the state constitution than the federal court and thus the school board will have to argue before the Georgia Supreme Court.

Meanwhile Pate says Governor Nathan Deal can proceed with removing the board members.

“There’s nothing to stop him at this point. Judge Story decided not to enter an order stopping the governor from removing the school board members so, I expect that will go forward as planned.”

When reached by phone, Dr. Eugene Walker, DeKalb’s former school board chairman, told WABE he would not comment until after speaking with attorneys.

Statement from DeKalb County Board Chair Dr. Melvin Johnson:

“I respect the judge's opinion, and appreciate the judge providing an opinion in a timely manner, because time is of the essence. It is essential that we have a governing board capable of meeting the needs of our administration, students, parents and taxpayers. Equally important is having a board in place to work with the administration on ensuring that the district regains full accreditation. I pledge my full and complete cooperation with the panel of citizens Gov. Nathan Deal has identified to select new board members, and I trust they will work expeditiously to ensure we have a governing board capable of addressing the pressing needs of our school system.” 

Read Judge Richard Story's ruling: