In Dallas District Court, that Preston Hollow Elementary Lawsuit You Forgot All About

With little fanfare and hardly any spectators, the trial in the case of Graciela McKay vs. DISD wraps up this week in U.S. District Court, with a verdict expected as early as tomorrow. McKay is the Preston Hollow teacher who filed a federal lawsuit against the district and the school's former principal, Teresa Parker, in which she alleges that district officials retaliated against her for calling attention to what District Judge Sam Lindsay ruled was deliberate segregation of minority students. McKay's asking for her job back -- plus damages and attorney's fees.

The case's scope has shrunk, though, as ahead of the trial's opening last week, District Judge Reed O'Connor dismissed the Dallas Independent School District and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa as defendants. That leaves only Parker, who Lindsay described as operating a private whites-only school and ordered to pay $20,200 to a Latino parent.

Most of the witnesses, including DISD school board president Jack Lowe, Hinojosa and Renee Martinez -- the League of United Latin American Citizens member and DISD administrator who, when directed to investigate complaints of segregation at Preston Hollow, concluded there was no evidence it was happening -- testified last week. When Unfair Park stopped by District Judge Reed O'Connor's court room this morning, DISD staff attorney Derrell Coleman was on the stand. After a lengthy discussion about complaints McKay made to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in 2006, his testimony concluded with this:

Brian Sanford, McKay's attorney: "You didn't believe there was any segregation going on, did you?"

Coleman: "No."

Sanford: "She couldn't convince the [Office for Civil Rights], either, apparently."

Coleman: "Apparently not."

Sanford: "But they were able to convince a federal judge."

Coleman: "That was the judgment."

Sanford: "Regardless of what the OCR does or believes, and regardless of what you believe, Ms. McKay had the right to speak about those matters without being retaliated against [under the First Amendment]."

Coleman answered that the right to free speech applies if she was complaining to administrators who could do something about the segregation, but not if she was talking to parents or students. Interesting Constitutional assertion, though we won't know until later what it means for McKay's case.

After testimony wraps up this afternoon and the lawyers make their closing arguments, we'll let you know what the jury decides.

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Megan Feldman
Contact: Megan Feldman