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Court Holds Hearing on School Redistricting Suit

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A suit filed against the Richmond School Board alleging some members colluded to redraw district boundaries may be headed to trial.

During a hearing today at Richmond Circuit Court, attorney Charlie Schmidt said his client, Kimberly Johnson Jones, was blindsided by the changes surrounding the board’s decision to close Clark Springs Elementary. She alleges 1st District School Board Representative Glen Sturtevant led a “bad faith” campaign that violated open meeting laws to move more students into the William Fox Elementary district. As a result, Schmidt says Clark Springs became a casualty to make the numbers work.

“What Mr. Sturtevant did was step over a line and do the job of the administration,” Schmidt said. “Sturtevant and other board members tallied their votes and traded political favors before the public process.”

Attorney Jim Guynn, with School Board Chairman Jeffrey Bourne at his side, argued for dismissal primarily based on the fact that Jones’ daughter’s district, Overby-Sheppard, never changed during the course of redistricting discussions. With an open-enrolled student at Clark Springs, Guynn argues Jones doesn’t have standing as an aggrieved party.

“There are few political decisions more hotly debated than messing with schools,” Guynn said. “With all due respect, it’s not the court’s job to second guess.”

While the School Board has been asked not to comment on the litigation, support for either side seemed to follow the 5-4 split vote on the decision to close Clark Springs. Second District Representative Kimberly Gray, who voted to close the school, sat stone-faced as Schmidt aired allegations against Sturtevant, who was not present. Fifth District Representative Mamie Taylor, who still vocally opposes its closure, nodded in agreement with many of Schmidt’s points.

A decision on whether the case will be allowed to proceed is expected in 45 days.

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