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Suit in Birmingham, Ala., school takeover

Feb. 15, 2013 at 4:31 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A federal lawsuit claims Alabama violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act in its takeover of the Birmingham, Ala., city schools.

The state took over the financially strapped school district in June and has overturned a number of decisions its board made, including the firing of Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported Friday.

The suit, filed this week, says the takeover violated the Voting Rights Act by overriding the votes of elected board members and includes Birmingham Board of Education members Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford and Alabama Education Association representative and Birmingham resident Michael Todd as plaintiffs.

It was filed against state Superintendent Tommy Bice, former state superintendent and leader of the state takeover Ed Richardson and the state Board of Education.

The suit claims the takeover transferred power for a black-majority electorate and a black-majority school board in Birmingham to the state Board of Education, which has a majority-white and non-elected membership, the News reported Friday.

"In a democratic process people go to the polls to vote and they voice their concerns through their board members. When state law is used to usurp federal law, that's not how it works in the U.S.," Gregory Graves, associate executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said Thursday.

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