Suit claims closures based on ethnicity, free-and-reduced lunch
By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- The Brevard County School District issued a response this week to the racial discrimination lawsuit filed against it earlier this month.
The 32-page lawsuit, which is backed by the Florida Civil Rights Association, asked a judge to grant an injunction against the Brevard County School Board and prevent three Brevard schools from closing because of a claim of racial discrimination against low-income and minority schools.
District Attorney Harold Bistline said in a statement that the district is currently reviewing the filing with the 18th Circuit Court and that the school board will comply with all legal proceedings.
"We believe we have fully complied with all legal requirements in the decision to close Clearlake Middle School, Gardendale Elementary and South Lake Elementary," Mr. Bistline said. "The process utilized was unbiased and based on capacity as determined by an analysis conducted by our Facilities Department. Issues, such as minority status and free or reduced lunch calculations, were not a part of the formula utilized to make these recommendations."
The lawsuit represented by Orlando Civil Rights attorney Shayan Elahi states the School District originally considered cuts that would balance free-and-reduced lunch rates between schools and ethnic diversity. However, this one was excluded from the board's vote on the school closures.
"We've asked the judge to stop these closures and give everyone involved some time to look into exactly what is going on behind the scenes," Mr. Elahi said at a new conference at the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center in Viera after filing the lawsuit on Monday, March 4.
The lawsuit also argues that Sea Park Elementary in Satellite Beach was more accommodated for closure but was saved.
Sea Park Elementary currently has an 18 percent minority rate, as opposed to 40 percent at Gardendale and Clearlake and 60 percent at South Lake.
The suit comes in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott's $4,725,579 award to the Brevard County School District as part of an educational referendum.
Michelle Irwin, director of district communications for Brevard Public Schools, said the district has not yet made a decision on whether or not this funding will go toward the current budgetary crisis.
"We are awaiting the details at this time since this has yet to be adopted by our legislation," she said.