A King County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that there was not enough legal and factual sufficiency to recall the entire Seattle School Board. A group of parents had accused the board of failing to adequately plan for students’ return to classes.
After hearing from the three petitioners and an attorney representing the School Board on Friday, Judge Mafé Rajul dismissed the recall petition.
“The Court is understanding and sympathetic of the parents’ concerns with children in the Seattle Public School District being subjected to remote learning … However, the Court is limited in its role as a gatekeeper,” Rajul wrote in her order.
The 11 charges were filed in March by Seattle Public Schools parents and community members Emily Cherkin, Jennifer Crow and Beverely Goodman, who have accused six board members of failing to plan for schools reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things. Named are Zachary DeWolf, Brandon Hersey — whose seats are on the August primary and November ballot — and Liza Rankin, Lisa Rivera-Smith, Leslie Harris and School Board President Chandra Hampson — who are midway into four-year terms.
District IV Director Erin Dury, who was appointed just last month after former School Board member Eden Mack resigned, is not named in the charges.
Rajul noted the decision to close schools is a “discretionary act and members of a school board cannot be recalled unless they arbitrarily or unreasonably exercised such discretion.” The School Board, she decided, did not make decisions surrounding school closures in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner.
“Our ability to affect change as parents is limited,” Cherkin, a Seattle mom and one of the plaintiffs, said last week. “We don’t have control over the teachers union. We don’t have control over the superintendent. But we have control over the people we vote for.”
She added, “This felt like one of the few forms of recourse we had.”
The plaintiffs also accused the board of failed oversight resulting in reduced outdoor play space; lack of protection of student data and privacy during remote learning; mishandling several issues at Northgate Elementary School and Rainier Beach High School; and failing to consult the Duwamish Tribe before voting on two projects, among other charges.
Cherkin said she, Crow and Goodman might consider appealing the decision to an appellate judge.
It wasn’t the only school board recall campaign recently underway in the Puget Sound area. A group of parents has filed a recall petition against the entire Northshore School Board, also accusing members of not doing enough to get students back in school buildings.
Cherkin said after reading the judge’s decision that although she wasn’t surprised, she was disappointed in the ruling.
“We did not have an attorney and in spite of that, did a good job making a strong case for our charges,” she wrote in an email. “If the judge is limited in her role as ‘gatekeeper’ … then who does have that power?”
She added, “We didn’t lose today; the kids in Seattle Public Schools did.”