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Judge moves lawsuit against GCPS to Gwinnett

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.

Comments

LarryMajor 1 year, 6 months ago

The statements that amendment supporters claimed damaged their position have just been ruled as honest, factual answers to questions asked by taxpayers.

Do you really need to know anything more about the people trying to trick you into changing our constitution?

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NewsReader 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't really expect you to understand English, let alone law, but the judge ruled on Fulton County School's website and furthermore stated that Gwinnett was outside jurisdiction. I know you cherry pick what you read to perpetuate your blatant ignorance and stupidity. After all, it was only written in the first paragraph in this story. When you don't agree with the legislature and the people, it's a trick, right? Cry me a bucket full LarryMajor!

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WishingWell 1 year, 6 months ago

I have no problem with people exerting their 1st amendment rights. Just don't use tax payer funded websites, paper, pens, etc...to do it.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 6 months ago

Fully agree WishingWell. Wilbanks is free to express his opinion on his own time and nickle, but not while he is in the capacity of superintendent. Put quite simply, it's against the law.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 6 months ago

Not only has Wilbanks spent time campaigning against this, but he has had others in the GCPS office working on communications about the amendment. These communications are stated as "informational" in nature, but it's quite obvious that they are written in a manner as to make the amendment seem to be negative and a threat. These pieces were written by county employees, using county resources, and sent out broadly to educators in the county...many of whom I assume spent time on the clock reading the content. It doesn't take long before a lot of taxpayer dollars are spent in this "campaign".

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kevin 1 year, 6 months ago

Wilbanks and all the rest involved should be fired. Public employees and officials are not allowed to get involved in political issues and campaigns. They should not be allowed to post signs on their property either. Is the news media checking that out as well? The public (taxpayers) is demanding Charter schools no matter how we get them. When will this powerful and controlling school board understand that? We do not need the slanted talk on public time to persuade us. You won't. I hope they get blown out of the water with this amendment when it passes. The present school board is obviously delaying and stopping more Charter schools. This is why they would are so against this amendment. Wilbanks is the biggest one behind this push. We will rememebr which legislators are against is as well come election time.

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