The Coffee County Board of Education discussed at the Oct. 7 board work session the need for redistricting in the county due to new census data that was released by the state.
The new census data requires the board to redistrict to meet equal representation across the districts, according to board attorney James Tarbox.
Tarbox explained to the board that because of a lawsuit filed against the board for lack of representation of minors in the early 1990s, the board has adopted the same districts of the Coffee County Commission since 1993 as a part of the settlement of that lawsuit. Tarbox said that the commission has also been made aware of the districting issue and said that he is working with the commission on the possibilities.
Tarbox said that the commission will be discussing the issue of redistricting at the commission’s work session scheduled for Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m. While Tarbox said that he believes legally the school board could move away from following what district lines the commission comes up with, it could leave the board open to “scrutiny” and they would still have to redistrict anyway.
“I think the board could do that but we would still have to redistrict,” Tarbox explained. “I do believe that since there was a lawsuit that was settled in the 90s that should we do something different than the commission, we could be opening ourselves up to scrutiny.”
One district that Tarbox said was necessary to remain the same was District 5.
“That (district) was set up years ago,” Tarbox said. “The minority population is significant in that district. (Coffee County Administrator) Rod Morgan and I discussed that if anything were to occur to change District 5 we would be opening ourselves up to federal scrutiny and we don’t want to do that.”
Tarbox said that any changes to the districts must be made 180 days prior to the next board election, which is set for May 24, 2022. So, the board and commission will have to make the necessary changes this month.
The school board is expected to call a special called board meeting later this month, after the commission holds its work session on Oct. 19 to discuss this issue.