Spring Branch ISD accused of Voting Rights Act violations
SPRING BRANCH, Texas - Spring Branch ISD, among the most high-profile public school districts in Greater Houston, is facing a substantial battle in federal court over alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act.
At the core of this Civil action lie two facts - Spring Branch is a district where a majority of students are Hispanic, while the Board of Trustees has, for the most part, been entirely white and consistently voted into office during "at-large" elections.
An unsuccessful former candidate is claiming the system is unlawful because a large swath of the community remains un-represented and effectively, has no voice.
"This has been brewing for a very long time. Most of the school board members in Spring Branch live in the same neighborhood in Memorial and so the north side of Spring Branch is virtually unrepresented," said Fox 26 Legal Analyst Chris Tritico.
Tritico says one remedy for this lack of minority representation lies in scrapping the "at-large" system and carving out so-called single-member, "opportunity" districts in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods. It is an option the District's past trustees have been unwilling to embrace.
"That's why the voting rights act is in place, to ensure that everyone is represented," said Tritico.
SBISD Spokesman Terry Abbott tells FOX 26 "We are aware of the lawsuit and we will file a response in accordance with the timeline set by the federal court."
Former Spring Branch Student and current resident Patti Limon de Rodriguez says SBISD leadership should reflect the community to ensure equal authority and access to resources
"It's about making those kids that are north of the railroad tracks and now north of I-10, making them feel like they matter, making the parents in those neighborhoods feel like their tax dollars matter, that they matter as parents, that their family matters," said Limon de Rodriguez.
A major contributor to the lack of minority representation on the SBISD Board is the historically poor Hispanic voter turnout for Trustee elections.