Emmanuel County BoE Must Draw Two New African-American Districts

A group of civil rights legal activists secured a settlement in a federal lawsuit against the Emmanuel County Board of Education on Friday, paving the way for stronger African-American representation on the county’s Board of Education. The two new seats must be majority-minority districts in line with the Voting Rights Act.

Currently, 81% of Emmanuel County’s African-American residents are in one of the BoE districts, making up 23.6% of the rest of the districts. As you can guess, this has led to wide racial disparities within the county’s educational structure, including having no more than one African-American member of the seven-person BoE at any one time.

A statement from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the parties challenging the Emmanuel County BoE said in a statement:

African Americans in Emanuel County continue to bear the effects of a long history of discrimination, which hinders their ability to participate effectively in the political process and has resulted in African American residents’ having a lower socioeconomic status and lagging behind white residents in a wide range of areas, including employment, income, education, and access to health care. Furthermore, the school board has overwhelmingly hired white applicants, despite the availability of qualified African American candidates. As a result, even though African American students make up nearly half of the student population in the county’s schools, the faculty and staff in the county’s schools contain a much smaller percentage of African Americans.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law added: “Today’s victory helps ensure that African American voters in Emanuel County, Georgia will be provided a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the local school board.

The full statement is below the fold.

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Secures Important Voting Rights Victory in Rural Georgia

Agreement in Federal Lawsuit Will Provide African American Voters in Emanuel County, Georgia
Equal Opportunity to Elect Candidates of Choice

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 9, 2016 –The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), the law firm of Carlton Fields, Georgia NAACP and attorney Jerry Wilson announced a settlement agreement in the case, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, et al. v. Emanuel County Board of Commissioners. Under the agreement, the electoral map for Emanuel County, Georgia, will be re-drawn to establish two majority-African American school board districts. Through the creation of at least two “majority minority” districts, African American residents of Emanuel County will be afforded the opportunity to elect school board candidates of choice.

The settlement resolves a federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in February 2016, alleging that the County’s current electoral map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by diluting the voting power of African Americans. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the Georgia NAACP, the state’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, and two Emanuel County voters.

“Democracy extends well beyond the doors of the White House,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Local government provides communities a vehicle to impact issues that concern their day-to-day lives. Today’s victory helps ensure that African American voters in Emanuel County, Georgia will be provided a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the local school board. We will continue to use the Voting Rights Act as a tool to combat voting discrimination and to achieve fairer and more democratic outcomes across our country.”

African Americans in Emanuel County continue to bear the effects of a long history of discrimination, which hinders their ability to participate effectively in the political process and has resulted in African American residents’ having a lower socioeconomic status and lagging behind white residents in a wide range of areas, including employment, income, education, and access to health care. Furthermore, the school board has overwhelmingly hired white applicants, despite the availability of qualified African American candidates. As a result, even though African American students make up nearly half of the student population in the county’s schools, the faculty and staff in the county’s schools contain a much smaller percentage of African Americans.

Since redistricting must be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, the settlement agreement requires the school board to pass a resolution and work with the local delegation to the Assembly to ensure that lawmakers approve a map with two majority-African American districts.

“This settlement represents progress in making real the promises of America’s democracy even in very rural places like Emanuel County, Georgia,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro attorney and Georgia NAACP president. African Americans make up one-third of Emanuel County’s voting age population, and nearly half of its students. Yet, there has never been more than one African American elected to the seven-person School Board at any one time. Under the current district map for the school board, African American voters are packed into just one of the Board’s seven districts: African Americans represent 81 percent of that district’s voting age population, while comprising an average of only 23.6 percent of potential voters in the other districts. This disparity suppresses the voting strength of black adults in six districts. The new map will better reflect the African American presence in the County as a whole.”

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit were represented by a team of attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Ezra Rosenberg and Arusha Gordon), Carlton Fields (Robert D. Helfand, Gail Podolsky, John Herrington) and the offices of Jerry Wilson.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit http://LCCRUL.pr-optout.com/Tracking.aspx….

About Carlton Fields
Carlton Fields has nearly 400 attorneys and government and financial services consultants serving clients from offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C. The firm is known for its national litigation practice, including class action defense, trial practice, white-collar representation, and high-stakes appeals; its regulatory practice; and its handling of sophisticated business transactions and corporate counseling for domestic and international clients. For additional information, visit www.carltonfields.com. (Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A. practices law in California through Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, LLP)

About the Georgia NAACP
Founded in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. The Georgia NAACP has had an unbroken presence in Georgia since 1917 and maintains a network of branches throughout Georgia, from cities to small rural counties. The Georgia NAACP has been the most effective and consistent advocates for civil and human rights in Georgia.

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Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Emanuel Co.
7 school districts – more districts than schools
1 high school
4,400 students aka collateral damage

Ellynn
Ellynn

Your school inventory is incorrect.

2 High Schools, ECI (6-12) and Swainsboro High (9-12)
1 Middle School
2 Elementary Schools
1 Primary School
1 Pre-K School

1 Additional K-8 school currently not in use (built 1999)

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Yeah, it’s a great idea that school district policy be set be one elected official.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

So? 7 districts, 7 schools of some sorts.
I got the answer from a fellow drifting by in an Okefenokee flat bottom boat…….consolidate:
Join other counties or go to three districts, two based on elementary school draw areas and the third, county wide.

No consideration for race (probability is an all black BOE). The number of elected strutting around goes from 7 to 3.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Get a grip. School attendance zones and district representation are two different things. Boards of three are extraordinary.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

‘Arse

Save the personal idiotic comments. But then common sense solutions sans racial and bureaucratic considerations are not your thing.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

How many one person and how many three person school boards there are among the approximately 180 public school systems in Georgia if one or three person boards are common sense?

I know, I know, every thing government is and does is wrong.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Your comments must embarrass the liberals on here.

A BOE member ratio of 1-1 to schools or 1-600 to students or by student race or we do it because all the others do, defies common sense.

It is also not about government but about bureaucracy which definition includes:
“overly concerned with procedure at the expense of efficiency or common sense”

You may have the last word, I am done.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

For the record, I support consolidation of smaller rural school systems into larger ones.

Ellynn
Ellynn

BOE district ratio is 1 to 3200 +/- people. We don’t work out a district by students but by population. Emanuel Co is one of the more stable rural systems. The reason it has a low school count is they built a few larger school instead of 5 smaller K-8 schools to reduce overall costs starting in the early 1990’s. It’s not going to join with any of its local counties anytime soon. As long as large farm tracks are owned by a few major long- established families, they will not reduce district counts down to even 5.