With dismissal of discrimination suit, Galveston schools closer to unitary status

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Jun 26, 2008

GALVESTON – A local school district will soon find itself spending a lot less time in U.S. District Court.

Because of a judge's ruling, the Galveston Independent School District does not have to further answer allegations of discrimination and wrongful termination brought by a former law enforcement official, and the district is steps closer to settling a decades-old desegregation lawsuit.

Judge Sim Lake junked the lawsuit of former GISD police Chief Jimmy Fullen on June 18, stating there was a lack of sufficient evidence.

Fullen filed the suit in 2003. Lynn Hale, the district's superintendent during Fullen's tenure, was named a co-defendant.

Fullen, who is white, alleged his skin color played a role in his dismissal. The school district argued that it was Fullen's failure to take compulsory police chief training – not his race – which led to the firing.

Fullen's successor, Lee Amador, is also white.

In the original petition, Fullen lamented he suffered mental anguish and emotional distress and lost more than $770,000 when Hale sacked him. He also argued his new night job kept him from spending time with his family.

Lake, however, said such episodes, including a reported fainting spell, were not severe enough to bring about a settlement. His ruling also stated Hale would have fired Fullen anyway for missing out on the training.

While seeking damages from GISD, Fullen ran a successful primary campaign for Galveston County Constable. He faces election in November as a Republican.

Fullen will have to pay court costs.

With the Fullen case closed, GISD now aims to achieve unitary status, having recently submitted necessary material to the federal court. By doing so, the school district will be deemed to have desegregated itself.

According to an article in The Galveston County Daily News published June 20, the U.S. Department of Justice has 30 days to respond and Lake will subsequently issue a ruling to junk the 50-year-old lawsuit.

The school district must be sufficient in the following areas in order to be considered fully integrated:

  • Student assignment;
  • Faculty and staff assignments;
  • Pupil transportation;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Facilities;
  • Allocation of resources;
  • Student achievement; and
  • Special programs

    GISD remains as one of a handful of school districts in Texas compelled by the federal government to desegregate. In 1978, it implemented a voluntary majority to minority transfer policy to its elementary campuses.

    The student body is currently 40 percent Hispanic, 30 percent African American, and 30 percent white as of the preceding school year, reports the GISD Web site.

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