Recall charges against Seattle school board members dismissed

A King County Superior Court judge on April 19 dismissed recall charges against six of the seven members of the Seattle Public Schools school board in Washington. The hearing on the petitions was held on April 16.

The recall charges were filed against Liza Rankin, Lisa Rivera Smith, Chandra Hampson, Zachary DeWolf, Leslie Harris, and Brandon Hersey in March 2021. District IV representative Erin Dury was not included in the recall effort as she was not a member of the board at the time charges were filed. She was appointed to the position on March 24.

Recall supporters said the board had failed to transition to in-person instruction in a timely manner. Seattle Public Schools started out the 2020-2021 school year in remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board voted on March 24 to move Pre-K through fifth-grade students into in-person instruction starting in April 2021. The school board members did not publicly respond to the recall effort.

When dismissing the petition, Judge Mafé Rajul said the decision to close schools was a “discretionary act and members of a school board cannot be recalled unless they arbitrarily or unreasonably exercised such discretion.” She said the school board members had not acted arbitrarily or unreasonably when they voted to close the schools.

If the recall charges had been approved, recall supporters would have had to collect signatures equal to 25% of the votes cast in the last election for each official.

Rankin, Rivera Smith, and Hampson were first elected to four-year terms on the board on November 5, 2019. Harris was re-elected to the board in the same election. DeWolf was re-elected to the board on November 7, 2017, and Hersey was appointed to the board on September 18, 2019. The school district is holding a regular election on November 2 for the seats held by DeWolf, Hersey, and Dury.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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