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Activists vow to fight Deal in DeKalb schools case

By Stan Washington Senior Writer | 3/15/2013, noon
A coalition of black state lawmakers and civil rights leaders are vowing to continue their fight against Gov. Nathan Deal ...
NAACP President Edward Dubose

ATLANTA – A coalition of black state lawmakers and civil rights leaders are vowing to continue their fight against Gov. Nathan Deal and actions he took to remove six board members from the DeKalb County school board and replace them with nominees of his own choosing.

Deal named new DeKalb County board members at a news conference Wednesday, just days after he issued an executive order removing six board members – five of them black – in an unprecedented legal case that one of the dismissed board members called a “political lynching by a kangaroo court.”

Calling Deal’s actions “dictatorial,” state NAACP President Edward DuBose said the three-year-old state law Deal used to remove board members disenfranchises black voters in DeKalb County, thwarts the will of the people and is an “attack on our sacred rights.”

“The governor’s decision to remove these school board members is more about power, control and chipping away at the Voting Rights Act and less about the best interest of the children,” said DuBose, who is leading a coalition of black state lawmakers and civil rights activists.

“The people of DeKalb – the people who are registered to vote, the people whose rights are inked in blood – those people should have the right to choose who should govern them,” DuBose said later.

“This is a dark period in Georgia and in our country and is a reminder of many of the period of reconstruction when Black Elected Officials were removed only to return to the era of slavery and Jim Crow,” he added. “It is a slap in the face to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and others who fought, bled and died that we might have the right to vote.”

DuBose said coalition members plan to continue fighting the constitutionality of the law Deal use to remove board members. A federal lawsuit over issues in the case was referred to the Georgia Supreme Court. That lawsuit, filed by dismissed board members, claimed Deal’s action violated due process, local control and political self-determination.

No petition has yet been filed in the Georgia Supreme Court to halt Deal’s action.

Deal said he opted to suspend board members because of the negative impact a loss of accreditation could have on attracting business to metro Atlanta. DeKalb County has the state’s third largest school district with nearly 100,000 students.

A spokesman for Deal added that the governor ultimately chose to intervene to serve the interest of children in DeKalb.

“Governor Deal told this group and he'll tell any group that the children are the victims caught in the middle,” said Brian Robinson, Deal’s deputy chief of staff. “He had one choice and what he chose was to make sure every student graduates from an accredited school.”

DuBose said coalition members don’t buy it.

“We don't buy the governor's argument that he didn't have a choice,” he said. “This is a fight he didn't have to fight. He has some many other issues he could be dealing with.”