By Ty Tagami
The state hearing that could unseat the nine members of the DeKalb County school board should proceed as scheduled Thursday morning, a judge has ruled.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Amanda Lee on Wednesday declined DeKalb’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the proceedings. But Lee left open the possibility of a future court ruling that would prohibit the board’s removal.
The judge declined the restraining order over a technical issue: DeKalb failed to comply with a law that requires five-day notice to the state to suspend a proceeding.
The Georgia Board of Education has scheduled an 8 a.m. hearing Thursday with the DeKalb school board. The state board must decide whether to recommend suspension of the DeKalb board to Gov. Nathan Deal. A 2011 state law authorizes the removal of school boards in districts where accreditation is in probationary status.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation in December and threatened to strip accreditation altogether if the DeKalb board fails to address alleged mismanagement in Georgia’s third largest school system.
Although Judge Lee denied the request to halt the state hearing on the timing issue, her order says DeKalb may yet get a restraining order.
DeKalb asserts that the 2011 law is unconstitutional by denying the local board due process. The state is not required to produce “any specific charges,” DeKalb asserts.
The state law basically allows a non-governmental agency such as SACS to create the evidence that is then used as the basis for suspension. SACS used anonymous sources throughout its report, and did not specify documents used to buttress every allegation.
The lawsuit contends that local voters would be disenfranchised if the state removed their elected officials because they failed to “remain in the good graces of an unelected, unaccountable private agency.”
Judge Lee wrote that “it appears that plaintiffs have shown that immediate and irreparable harm may still occur” to them after the state hearing.
If the state board recommends removal, Deal would be authorized to suspend the DeKalb board with pay and appoint temporary replacements.
Lee scheduled a hearing for Feb. 28 at 8:30 a.m. when the state must argue against granting DeKalb an order that restrains Deal from acting.