Friday, June 5, 2020
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Texas district elects school board members at-large

Asian Americans in a school district near Dallas, Texas, have filed a federal lawsuit charging the district with diluting their votes for representatives on the school board and thereby denying them representation on the governing body.

The Coppell Independent School District elects school board members in an at-large process: everybody who lives in the district votes for board members to fill every seat, rather than casting votes for only some board members to represent a slice of the district geographically.

This has allowed, the lawsuit alleges, white voters to create a voting bloc and dilute the votes of the Asian-American population. “The Asian-American population in Coppell represents a huge part of the Coppell ISD student population, and yet these students and their community are denied representation on this school board,” the Dallas Morning News quoted Pankaj Jain, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas and the lead plaintiff, as saying.

Of particular concern is the district’s dual-language immersion. These classes provide instruction in both English and Spanish, not English and one of five Indian languages spoken at the schools, despite the fact that students who are learning English and in whose homes English isn’t generally spoken more often speak one of the Indian languages than Spanish. Of Coppell ISD’s 44,419 residents and according to the 2010 Census:

  • 41 percent of those residents are Asian
  • 38 percent of them are white
  • 13 percent are Hispanic
  • 5 percent are black
  • 3 percent of residents have some other ethnicity

“Our client believes that Coppell ISD is unfairly denying the local Asian-American community an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process,” the paper quoted William A Brewer III, Mr Jain’s lead counsel, as saying. “Our hope is that the school board’s leadership will recognize its responsibility to embrace a more inclusive future—one that provides representation for the largest demographic group enrolled in the school system.”

The group is also concerned with the lack of Asian Americans on the teaching faculty at the schools, saying Asian-American teachers are much rarer than one would expect, given the demographic make-up of the district.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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