The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against a school district that serves Ferguson, Mo., alleging that the district disenfranchises black voters.
The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the Missouri NAACP, comes after months of scrutiny by government agencies and civil rights groups into the area's local governments and predominantly white political leadership following the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black man. That incident has triggered a protest movement that has yet to fully subside.
The Ferguson-Florissant School District has seven board members, and only one is black. The district serves 11,000 students in northern St. Louis County, 79% of whom are black, according to the ACLU.
The school board members are selected in at-large elections. The lawsuit charges that because black voters are a minority inside the district's boundaries, their relative voting strength is unfairly weakened in at-large elections.
The ACLU argues that the voting system for the district should instead allow for board members to be elected to represent local neighborhoods, in order to better represent black voters.
"We've seen African Americans excluded from making decisions that affect our children," plaintiff Redditt Hudson said in a statement. Hudson, who works for the NAACP, is a former St. Louis police officer with two daughters in the district.
"We need to be able to advocate for an education that will put our kids first and not political agendas," he said.
A spokesperson for the district could not be immediately reached for comment.