For Immediate Release October 11, 2017
ATLANTA -- A school guidance counselor running for a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education filed a lawsuit today in federal court asserting that her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to run for office is violated by the Atlanta Board of Education charter. When Patreece Hutcherson, an employee in Douglas County School District and a member of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), declared her intention to run for the District 6 seat on the City of Atlanta Board of Education, she was told by City of Atlanta officials that the Atlanta Public Schools’ charter prohibits her from holding office because she happens to be a teacher in the Douglas County schools.
Mike McGonigle, legal services director for the GAE which is providing Ms. Hutcherson's legal counsel, explained that “Georgia’s teachers are always, and must continue to be, engaged in the political process. And like Ms. Hutcherson, they are uniquely situated to provide informed and effective leadership for, in this case, Atlanta’s Board of Education. This restriction just makes no sense and illegally restricts local educators’ ability to become part of the solution.”
As a parent of school-aged children living in the City of Atlanta, Hutcherson meets all criteria to run for the Atlanta Board of Education. However, the APS Charter contains a restriction that prohibits employees of any other school district from holding office as a board member. The Charter’s restriction is far broader than the state law setting such qualifications and unlike any other local school districts’ policies.
Hutcherson said she was not aware of the restriction on Board members unique to the City of Atlanta when she declared her intention to run for office, and her Superintendent in Douglas County desires to retain her as a teacher if she is elected. She has sought a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education because she disagrees with the privatization of several schools in the Atlanta Public Schools known as the “APS Turnaround Plan.” She thinks the Board should do more to protect teachers who are now fleeing with the threat of losing their jobs in privatized schools.
According to Hutcherson, “I cannot understand why the City of Atlanta would not want concerned, informed parents who happen to work in public education elsewhere from sitting on the Board. By limiting the pool of potential candidates to non-educators, we are excluding thousands of educators who may otherwise want to run for this office.”
Hutcherson's attorneys, Craig Goodmark and Gerry Weber, filed the lawsuit in federal court and are asking the Court to act immediately to prohibit the enforcement of this provision of the Charter and have sought an expedited ruling. Goodmark explained, “Atlanta’s restriction on Ms. Hutcherson’s ability to hold office is even more restrictive than state law and has no legitimate justification. It impacts over one hundred thousand teachers across Georgia and almost 40,000 school employees from other area school districts.” Mr. Weber, who has successfully litigated similar cases involving the constitutional rights of candidates said, “We should welcome teachers as members on local school boards. They are in the trenches and know what makes schools work. But APS broadly bars any teacher from anywhere serving on their board."
Gerry Weber 404.932.5845
Craig Goodmark 404.719.4848