County files lawsuit against Brevard School Board

Commission hopes to prevent 3 schools from closing

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Brevard County filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Brevard School Board, seeking an injunction blocking the closing of three local schools, according to Local 6 News partner Florida Today.

In the suit, Brevard County attorney Scott Knox accused the school board of multiple violations of an agreement between the county and the school district, when the board voted to close Clearlake Middle in Cocoa, Gardendale Elementary on Merritt Island and South Lake Elementary in Titusville.

School district officials said the closings would save about $2.5 million a year, as part of an effort to cut $30 million from the district budget.

School officials have said they did nothing improper in deciding to close the schools, after Brevard County voters in November defeated a half-cent sales-tax initiative to help fund schools.

But Knox argues in the lawsuit that the school district did not abide by terms of its 2008 interlocal agreement for public school facility planning, which it entered with the county and 14 local municipalities. Specifically, the county alleges the school board:

  • Failed to properly put forth rules establishing rezoning and school closure criteria through a required rule-making process.
  • Failed to provide a Capital Outlay Committee made up of school district, county and municipal officials with enough information on the proposals to close schools and make other budget cuts, thus "preventing it from performing its oversight duties."

The lawsuit also alleges that although the county, along with the cities of Cocoa and Titusville, started conflict-resolution proceedings to resolve the dispute over the school board's Feb. 12 vote to close the schools, "the school board has continued to take actions implementing its decision to close the three schools." An initial meeting related to the conflict-resolution process has been scheduled for April 11.

The Brevard County Commission on Tuesday unanimously authorized Knox to file the lawsuit.

In his 11-page lawsuit, filed in Brevard County Circuit Court, Knox also alleged that:

  • The school board failed to follow its internal procedures in selecting which schools to close by failing to establish an Evaluation Committee, but instead created its own criteria for rezoning school attendance boundaries.
  • School district staff changed its school closure criteria so that the criteria "explicitly eliminated the two factors favoring the retention of schools serving minority areas."
  • The school board made closure decision that "display a pattern of building new schools on the edge of cities, while closing old schools in the interior of cities," in conflict with state, county and local planning initiatives.

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