ATLANTA — Stating that her reach did not extend into Gwinnett County, a Fulton County Superior Judge on Wednesday transferred the hearing for a preliminary injunction against Gwinnett County Public Schools to a different location.
The suit regards a claim that local education leaders are campaigning on the taxpayer’s dollar.
The case that was slated for Wednesday will be heard, instead, in conjunction with a separate but similar suit which was filed by a group of Gwinnett County residents as plaintiffs. It is scheduled for Oct. 24 in Gwinnett Superior Court.
The hearing in Fulton Superior Court on Wednesday involved a group of Georgia residents as plaintiffs, who claimed that GCPS as well as Fulton County Schools and all 180 districts in Georgia should refrain from alleged on-the-clock campaigning against a constitutional amendment slated for the Nov. 6 ballot.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob told attorneys for both GCPS and the plaintiffs that the lawsuits would be heard together.
It came at the request of GCPS attorney Victoria Sweeny, who commented on the case after court adjourned.
“The next step is for us to continue to protect the first amendment rights of the superintendent and board to speak out on matters of public concern, especially those that are so inextricably involved with their obligations to provide a quality, public education to the students of Gwinnett County,” Sweeny said.
In regard to the case against the Fulton County School System, attorney for the plaintiffs Glenn Delk asked the judge for an injunction to get the district to take down any material on the school system’s website, which he claimed advocated against the charter amendment.
Delk argued that both GCPS and Fulton should be required to “take down everything” related to the constitutional amendment.
He said that it “took employees time and research to post items (on the websites). Whether it costs anything or not to the taxpayers, (the sites) belong to the taxpayers.”
Shoob said that she did not see the content on Fulton’s website — a 10-question Q&A about the amendment — as an attempt for campaigning.
The judge stated that Delk did “not make a case for an injunctive” measure against the Fulton County School District.
The lawsuits against school systems pertain to a constitutional amendment that would underscore the state’s authority to charter independent public schools if voters say ‘yes’ to the ballot question.
Delk had asked for the preliminary injunction Wednesday to block the defendants from any further alleged violations.
Injunctions may be granted in situations where the judge believes the parties seeking the order have a reasonable chance to win the case.
In her judicial capacity, Shoob has been involved previously in the charter amendment debate.
When the state had a charter commission similar to the kind being considered under the proposed amendment, opponents sued, arguing that the constitution limits state power to grant charters.
Siding with the state, Shoob ruled that the General Assembly was permitted to create the commission.
The Georgia Supreme Court then reversed Shoob’s ruling in a 4-3 vote, which led the governor and other politicians to push for the amendment so that voters could decide.