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Banko and Bruce discuss their motivations for suing McGraw

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At a press conference today, Khahn-Lien Banko and Marlon Bruce, who are suing School Board Member Diyonne McGraw and other defendants on the grounds that McGraw ran for school board in the wrong district, gave statements about the lawsuit.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Jeff Childers, led off with a statement about the suggestion that McGraw made at yesterday’s school board meeting about the possibility of redrawing school board district boundaries: “I want to be clear that there is nothing in the laws of the State of Florida that would allow that to be effective to cure Ms. McGraw’s failure to maintain her residence. There’s Florida Supreme Court case law that is on point, that talks about this maintenance requirement as being something that’s continuous, it’s not anything that can be interrupted, and I think if you just think about it for a minute, you’ll see it can’t possibly work that way because if the school board could just redraw the district boundaries to put Ms. McGraw in District 2, then any school board member who was caught having moved outside their district could just move back to the district, and that would cure the problem, but obviously it doesn’t work that way. So it’s not going to work to change the district boundaries at this point because Ms. McGraw still failed to maintain her residence in that district. That’s our position.”

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Banko’s statement: “First, I’d like to congratulate our teachers and students that just finished the hardest year of their career and are facing a short summer. We should be expressing gratitude for all their hard work and discussing how to support them. Instead, we are talking about holding elected officials accountable to their oath and attempts to muddy the facts by unethically and illegally redrawing school district maps.

“I am bringing this case forward because it is the right thing to do and provides a path for the citizens of Alachua County to remedy a wrong. All candidates and elected officials take an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, the State of Florida, and the local municipalities. Those laws require people to reside with the people they represent, and Alachua County School Board District 2 is without representation since November of 2020. If you need an example of what a School Board Member should do when facing a vacancy issue, look to our south and former Marion County School Board Member Beth McCall’s resignation. 

“I feel that while the remedy for vacancy is clear and since Mrs. McGraw refuses to resign, the pathway to a resolution needed to be paved, and I’m used to paving pathways in Alachua County.

“I also want to be very clear: I am not seeking the District 2 seat. If Mrs. McGraw is removed, as she should be, then someone else will replace Mrs. McGraw.  

“Alachua County citizens voted for me last year. My voters understood that it is vital that we have a school system that respects the rule of law and a School Board able to fulfill their oath to uphold the laws of the land. To those voters, now you have a pathway forward to right this wrong.

“Finally, I am asking our Governor, Ron DeSantis, to immediately remove Mrs. McGraw from office. We have a short summer until school returns, and our students and their educators deserve a school board that upholds the law and stands as an example to our students and community.”

Bruce’s statement: “This isn’t a question of left vs. right but rather a question of right vs. wrong. Ms. McGraw is in her seat, and has been in her seat, unlawfully. This matter is clear. No matter the reasoning, the law is clear. This is why I have engaged in this endeavor.

“Voters deserve transparency and accountability. Parents deserve clarity, and students deserve a role model. How can I, as an educator, ask my students to follow the rules when the person who makes the rules so blatantly breaks them? This county faces serious problems, the largest of which is the achievement gap made worse by COVID. We need a serious and lawful school board to tackle these issues, to provide the support necessary for teachers to close the gap.

“So I’m calling on Ms. McGraw to step down. Should she continue to refuse to do so, I’m calling on the governor to remove her from office and give this county an effective and lawful school board.”

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