DeKalb school board fight lands in state Supreme Court



ATLANTA - An ousted DeKalb County school board member is fighting for his job back, and the case has landed at the state Supreme Court.

On Monday, the justices heard arguments about the suspensions of six veteran county school board members. One of them, Dr. Eugene Walker, is challenging Gov. Nathan Deal's decision, claiming it was unconstitutional.

The governor ordered the suspensions in February after alleged misconduct led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency, to put the district on probation.  The group cited evidence of fiscal mismanagement and unethical practices by the school board.

The SACS director said issues have existed with DeKalb’s school board for nearly a decade, and the board is dysfunctional and does not put the students first.

Channel 2’s Erica Byfield attended Monday’s hearing, where justices had questions for both sides. Justice Harris Hines asked lawyers to list two or three primary arguments.

Walker’s attorney said his client shouldn’t have been removed because he was an elected official. He said according to Georgia's constitution, if you want to remove a board member, there has to be a recall or the person must be convicted of a felony.

Justices also pressed the state’s attorney about the wording of the law used to remove board members. They wanted to know why the governor removed six board members, instead of all nine.

“I would agree, the statute could be clearer,” state attorney Stefan Ritter said.

Justices also raised questions about due process. The board members were removed as a group and won’t get a chance to individually defend themselves until their reinstatement hearings.

“Each one can raise their concerns about that,” Ritter said.

Walker defended himself as he left the courtroom.

“I have a right to serve until I do something wrong, and I haven't done anything wrong,” Walker told Byfield.

Justices are expected to issue their written decision within the next six months.

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