Suit over trustees’ removal dismissed; Wilmer-Hutchins ISD: Plaintiffs had argued official had no right

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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A lawsuit that could have stopped the deal between Dallas and Wilmer-Hutchins schools was dismissed Tuesday.

The suit argued that state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley did not have legal authority to remove Wilmer-Hutchins’ elected school board in May because not enough time had passed since the district was declared “academically unacceptable.” That move replaced the old board with a state-appointed board of managers.

Those managers have made a number of controversial decisions, including laying off all the district’s teachers and seeking to ship Wilmer-Hutchins students to another district for the coming school year. On Monday, Dallas agreed to take in the students.

Lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office argued that the suit’s plaintiffs – Roosevelt Robinson, Jan Calloway and Linda McDonald – did not have the right to challenge Dr. Neeley’s decision. State District Judge Karen Gren Johnson agreed, issuing a three-sentence ruling dismissing the case.

“Being a taxpayer doesn’t give you standing to challenge a lot of different types of government action,” said Robert O’Keefe, deputy chief of general litigation in the attorney general’s office. “Being a voter didn’t give them the kind of standing they need.”

No attorneys for the Association of Texas Professional Educators – the teachers’ group that funded the suit – were available for comment Tuesday. But spokesman Eric Allen said the group will evaluate the ruling and will consider refiling the case with other plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, Dr. Neeley issued a prepared statement Tuesday, praising Dallas school leaders for their willingness to aid Wilmer-Hutchins.

“I’m convinced that Dallas is committed to doing the best possible job they can for Wilmer-Hutchins children,” she said. “The students of Wilmer-Hutchins will be in good hands.”