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Federal judge blocks Ferguson-Florissant School Board elections


ST. LOUIS – A federal judge has blocked the Ferguson-Florissant School Board from holding elections after he found at-large school districts have led to racial bias in elections.

The judge stressed that he did not find the racial disparity to be intentional, but the result of accumulating trends and practices.

“It is my finding that the cumulative effects of historical discrimination, current political practices, and the socioeconomic conditions present in the District impact the ability of African Americans in FFSD to participate equally in Board elections,” Judge Rodney W. Sippel wrote in his decision.

Sippel is halting elections until a new process is created. He wrote that he would be discussing remedies with the district and the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

“This case is about African-American communities being able to hold their government accountable,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Today’s decision will lead to future school boards that are responsive to the needs of the community.”

The ACLU of Missouri filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP of Missouri in December last year.

“The importance of ensuring fair elections for all Americans cannot be overstated.  The NAACP, in conjunction with the ACLU, has worked tirelessly to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected,” said Missouri State Conference of the NAACP President Nimrod Chapel. “We are proud of the result in this case.”

Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, D-Ferguson, released a statement saying he is hopeful that a recent ruling by a federal judge barring the Ferguson-Florissant school district from conducting school board elections will promote diversity and ensure equality on the school board. 

“I am pleased that U.S. District Judge, Rodney W. Sippel, recognizes that the current system does not fit the needs of our local community. On its surface there may appear to be no problem with diversity for the school board, as the number of black members is proportional to the amount of registered voters. While there are currently three black members of the school board, black students make up nearly four-fifths of Ferguson-Florissant’s 12,000 students. With this ruling, the district can begin to work towards increasing the diversity on the board, and ensure that the board is working in the best interest of all people in the community. This was an excellent ruling made on the part of the federal judicial system, and I am enthusiastic to see its results in the Ferguson-Florissant school district. While this ruling will not solve all of the diversity issues that face the Ferguson area, it is a step in the right direction,” said Curtis, D-Ferguson.