- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A suburban St. Louis school district that includes part of Ferguson, Missouri, will appeal a federal judge’s order requiring a new method for electing school board members in an effort to remove racial bias from the process, district officials said Monday.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District said the appeal will be filed this week with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel’s order last month requires the school district to adopt cumulative voting, which would allow people to vote multiple times for a single candidate, depending on how many seats are up for grabs.

Sippel earlier struck down the district’s at-large election process, which allows people to vote only once for a candidate, ruling it was biased against black voters.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Missouri NAACP.

“We are disappointed that the school board has decided to continue spending money on this case rather than on educating children,” ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert said.

The lawsuit was filed soon after the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white Ferguson police officer. It alleged that the district’s practice of selecting board members at-large has made it more difficult for black candidates to win election.

The district serves about 11,200 students in parts of 11 municipalities, including part of Ferguson. It is about evenly split between whites and blacks, but nearly 80 percent of the students are black, as many white parents send their kids to private and parochial schools.

Sippel ruled in August that the “ongoing effects of racial discrimination that have long plagued the region, and the District in particular, have affected the ability of African-Americans to participate equally in the political process.”

The new system would take effect in time for the next school board election in April. Filing for candidates begins Tuesday.

The seven-member board had just one black member at the time the lawsuit was filed, but now has three.

“We are confident the present process is lawful and provides an equal opportunity for all candidates,” school board president Donna Paulette-Thurmon said in a statement.

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