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New York Board-Election LawIs Invalidated by Federal Judge

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A federal district judge in New York City last week overturned a state law prohibiting school employees and political leaders from serving on the city's 32 community school boards.

But the judge ordered that the election for 288 seats on the boards, scheduled for May 2, proceed as planned.

U.S. District Judge Mark A. Costantino ruled on April 25 that the statute violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws and freedom of speech and association, according to Robert A. Muir Jr., a lawyer for 26 officials affected by the law. Twenty of Mr. Muir's clients are running for seats on the nine-member boards. (See Education Week, April 26, 1989.)

A spokesman for the city school system said last week that district officials feared another suit would be filed to halt the election, since some incumbents had decided not to seek re-election because of the new law.

The New York City Board of Education, the city's corporation counsel, and the state attorney general indicated they would appeal Judge Costantino's ruling.

In addition, Mr. Muir said he would appeal the judge's finding that the election boundaries for the community boards do not violate federal one-man, one-vote requirements.

Mr. Muir said a separate trial would be held later to determine whether failure to redraw the boards' boundaries to reflect population changes violated minorities' 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

Supporters React

The state legislature adopted the law last year in response to allegations of conflicts of interest and corruption in the city's decentralized system of school governance.

Assemblyman Jose E. Serrano, who pressed for the bill's passage as chairman of the Assembly's education committee, said last week that the judge's decision sent the wrong message to parents and might discourage people from voting.

Parents "feel the judge's decision will just allow business as usual," he said, "and there is no room for them to participate."

Richard R. Green, the city's schools chancellor, expressed "dismay" over the ruling, but urged parents to vote in large numbers to ensure that the local boards were representative of their communities.--nm

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