A federal judge Friday struck down the Irving Independent School District's method of electing trustees as a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Currently all seven trustees are white while more than 70 percent of Irving ISD students are Hispanic. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit against the district by plaintiffs Manuel Benavides, who has run three times for school trustee and lost, and residents Juana and Daniela De Leon.
Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled that the current arrangement of electing five trustees from single member districts and two trustees at-large does not provide Hispanic candidates with sufficient opportunity to get elected.
Bickel & Brewer Storefront, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, presented evidence during a July trial that two majority Hispanic districts could be drawn with a seven single-member district arrangement.
“This verdict sends a powerful message to this school district and any others that would attempt to deny Latinos fair participation in the political process,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer Storefront. “Our clients urge Irving ISD to take the immediate steps required to revise its voting scheme — and give Latino voters the opportunity for political participation they deserve.”
The Irving ISD has 60 days to submit a plan that remedies the current violations. The school district can appeal the ruling to a higher court.
Irving ISD spokeswoman Lesley Weaver provided a statement Friday afternoon:
“Irving ISD disagrees with the court’s conclusion because district officials believe the current system (five single-member districts and two at-large seats) affords all Irving ISD citizens the opportunity to elect the representative of their choice. The board of trustees will confer with its legal counsel in the near future and will determine the appropriate course of action.”