A federal judge has ordered a New York school district to change the way it elects its school board, saying it has allowed the majority of seats on the nine-member board to be filled mostly by white, Orthodox Jewish men.
District Court Judge Cathy Seibel in a decision issued Tuesday on a lawsuit filed in January ordered the East Ramapo Central School District to stop using the at-large method to elect school board members. The next school board election is scheduled for June 9.
The lawsuit, which was refiled by the Spring Valley NAACP, alleges that the Orthodox majority on the school board is the result of a system in which all district voters can vote to fill all the open seats, which discriminates against black and Latino voters.
Three of the current school board members are people of color. There has been an Orthodox majority on the school board since 2005.
The lawsuit, which was filed originally in November 2017, cites the Voting Rights Act of 1965, federal legislation intended to prohibit racial discrimination in voting, The New York Jewish Week reported.
The board’s Orthodox members and their supporters mostly send their children to yeshivas and Jewish day schools. These members have voted to cut taxes and divert money from public to private schools. The school system has declined, leading in 2014 to the appointment by New York state of school district monitors.
The district has 30 days to divide the district into nine wards. The judge said it would be possible to create four districts in which minorities make up the majority of eligible voters.
More than 96 percent of the district’s 8,500 public school students are minorities and nearly all the district’s 27,000 private school students are white, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.