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Hazleton moms file lawsuit to change voting process, add Hispanic members to school board

Hazleton Area High School
Aimee Dilger / WVIA News
Hazleton Area High School

More than 65% of students in the Hazleton Area School District are Hispanic, but the district has never had a Hispanic school board member.

Scranton attorney Daniel Brier and the UCLA Voting Rights Project want to change that. They filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, on behalf of city residents and mothers Aleida Aquino and Brendalis Lopez.

They want to change the way that residents of the district vote for school directors. They say the current at-large system, in which all voters can select the nine representatives on the board, dilutes the voting strength of the district’s Hispanic population.

“I think it's indefensible in a functioning democracy to have a system that prohibits the Hispanics from electing candidates of their choice,” Brier said.

The Hispanic population in the city of Hazleton has grown from 15% to 51% since 2010, according to U.S. Census numbers cited in the lawsuit.

Brier says the at-large system violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prior to 1989, Hazleton selected school directors by region, ensuring that each part of the district had representation on the school board. Brier wants to return to that.

The school district has not responded to the lawsuit.

Sarah Hofius Hall worked at The Times-Tribune in Scranton since 2006. For nearly all of that time, Hall covered education, visiting the region's classrooms and reporting on issues important to students, teachers, families and taxpayers.

You can email Sarah at sarahhall@wvia.org