Two community members sued the San Dieguito Union High School Board over the board’s new redistricting map, alleging the new boundaries amounted to political gerrymandering to favor conservative board members.
The council adopted the map last month, 3-2, although the county superintendent warned that the map was potentially illegal because it rearranges electoral districts, rather than just adjusting them to the latest population figures.
We also don’t know who drew the map.
District administrators did not provide the author’s name in response to a request from the San Diego Union-Tribune. Four board members told the Union-Tribune they did not know who created the map, and trustee Michael Allman did not respond to comments by the deadline.
The disputes over the card align with earlier heated divisions between administrators that have thrown the North County district of 13,000 middle and high school students into turmoil over the past two years.
Conflicts over when to reopen schools, whether to require students to wear masks, how to fill a vacancy on the school board and other issues have led to San Dieguito board meetings that lasted after midnight. There have been public arguments between trustees at meetings, belittling by trustees and residents on social media, and hate mail received by council members.
School board administrators are supposed to hold nonpartisan positions, but COVID-era disputes over issues like school reopening, masks and vaccines have exacerbated the influence of partisan politics in decision-making. school boards.
Much of the tension on the board has been between Republicans Allman and Maureen Muir, and Katrina Young and Julie Bronstein, who are Democrats. The fifth trustee, Melisse Mossy, a Republican, often voted with Allman and Muir.
Allman, Muir and Mossy voted for the redistricting map, while Young and Bronstein voted against.
The fight against redistricting is one of the latest examples of how politics takes time and attention away from San Dieguito students, Mossy said, adding that it has become more difficult in recent years to bring people to compromise and coexist; instead, there is an escalation of vitriol and hatred.
“It’s all about politics, and we need to take that down,” Mossy said. “Whether it’s maps or any other issue, attention is blurred and a lot of energy and time is spent on things that don’t benefit our children.”
The San Dieguito Board, like most school boards in the county, has five members. Each is elected to staggered four-year terms in a geographic subsection of the district. Trustees must reside in the region they represent.
After each census, school boards must redraw or adjust their boundaries to ensure a relatively equal population in each subdistrict. Redistricting is important because it can alter the balance of voting power between communities.
However the part of State Law which explains the redistribution for schools is six paragraphs long and only mentions population figures as criteria.
As a result, San Dieguito administrators and community members disagree on what other factors should be prioritized when redistricting. Should we prioritize keeping towns and villages together, or nurturing elementary school districts? Should trustees stay in their current sub-districts? Should the impact of redistricting on this year’s electoral cycle be taken into account?
The map is controversial largely because it changes the sub-districts so that three of the five trustees are no longer in the areas they were elected to represent.
The map doubles trustees in two areas by redrawing the boundaries around their houses. And that leaves two directorless areas within their boundaries – sub-districts 2 and 5, which were Young’s and Bronstein’s sub-districts respectively.
Critics of the map say it unfairly removes most zone directors who voted for them, and it could effectively force Young to run for re-election this year, even though he has two years left in his term.
During this time the trial claims that thousands of voters who were supposed to vote in this year’s election would now have to wait two more years, which critics say constitutes disenfranchisement.
“There were other maps submitted that were more representative of our community and more balanced, but yet they chose map 8, which is definitely gerrymandering,” said Lisa Montes, a resident of the historically Mexican-American neighborhood of Solana Beach, La Colonia from Eden Gardens. .
Montes is one of the plaintiffs suing San Dieguito. Resident Carol Chang is the other; both are represented by attorney Cory Briggs.
Only Muir and Allman – the most vocal supporters of the map on the board – are allowed to continue representing their current areas with the new map.
The lawsuit alleges this was done on purpose to disadvantage the council’s Democratic minority voting members, Young and Bronstein.
“The Majority has recently abused the procedure required by law to adjust the boundaries of the five SDUHSD trusteeship areas in order to give the members of the majority an electoral advantage in the upcoming elections and to disadvantage the two members of the minority, in completely rearranging the boundaries instead, “the trial noted.
The lawsuit alleges that this boundary rearrangement is illegal because school districts can only “adjust” their boundaries, and only a county committee has the power to “rearrange” boundaries or make other major changes.
The lawsuit also claims the card weakens the voting power of Latino and Asian populations in the school district.
Compared to the old neighborhood map, the new map reduces the percentage of Latinos in two sub-districts by more than 3 points while increasing it by 3 points in another, which the lawsuit says “wraps” Latinos into a sub-district. The lawsuit also disputes that the Asian population was reduced by 2 percentage points in a sub-district.
Some admins and community members have also noted that the map divides coastal communities. It divides Solana Beach, a city of about 13,000, and Encinitas, of 63,000, into three trust areas.
It also divides Cardiff, which has a population of around 13,000, into two trust areas.
“When three directors represent a small town like Solana Beach, it dilutes the vote,” Montes said.
The attorney representing San Dieguito in the lawsuit, Randall Winet, said in court papers that the lawsuit contains “numerous inaccuracies” without proof.
Allman argued that the map does not diminish the voting power of racial minorities, because if the population of one racial group decreases in one sub-district, it increases in the others.
He also said at board meetings that the map is based on keeping coastal communities together in their own sub-districts. He said in a Facebook post that there is nothing in the redistricting law that specifies how much a boundary adjustment is too much.
Others didn’t buy that explanation; some have suggested that the boundary line around the trustees’ homes looks suspect.
“That would make sense, Admin Allman, if you really wanted it to be coastal, but the way it was drawn, there’s literally a line right around my house,” Bronstein said at a council meeting. of directors last month.
Young said no one explained why the map renumbers and changes sub-districts.
“Public comments and emails citing accusations of illegal gerrymandering and/or a flagrant disregard for our authority could certainly put our district in legal jeopardy,” Young said in a statement. Facebook post explaining his vote against the card.
Mossy said she voted for the map even though it moved it to a different area because it has the most balanced population totals among the sub-districts, which she says is the main criteria that the council must take into account. Keeping board trustees in their elected areas was not a factor he was told to consider, Mossy said.
County Superintendent Paul Gothold warned the district in a February 17 letterthe very day of the council vote, that the redistricting is not intended to revise the limits of the voting zones but to adjust them.
He added: “We do not support the creation of guardianship zones which serve to disenfranchise voters.”
Gothold sent the letter after being contacted by a community member who had helped create a competing redistricting map that was not chosen.
Gothold said if the district is sued over the map, the district could be liable for attorney’s fees. He also said that a county committee would draft a compliant redistricting plan for San Dieguito if the district did not do so on time, and that the committee would require San Dieguito to reimburse the committee for all associated costs.
Allman ignored Gothold’s letter on social media.
“The letter basically states that ‘if you submit an illegal map, the county will draw it for you.’ No kidding. That’s like saying “if you’re convicted of committing a crime, you could go to jail,” Allman wrote in a Facebook post. “Here’s the nuance: the cards weren’t illegal. They were already approved and certified by the demographer. Hit one.
Allman added, “The decision on which card to choose is up to our board, and no one else.”
San Diego County Office of Education spokeswoman Music Watson said it was up to the court to determine the next steps in the redistricting. For example, a judge could order the county committee to draw a new map for San Dieguito by April 30, the deadline set by state law, though it’s unclear whether the case will reach a conclusion. conclusion at that time, Watson said.