Civil rights school board election case heard in federal court Friday

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- A federal judge Friday took up the civil rights case that is pitting the Rapid City Area School District against a woman who says she was unfairly barred from the school board ballot.

Lawyers for hopeful candidate Lafawn Janis told a federal judge in Rapid City court that Janis was treated differently from other candidates when she turned in her petitions to run for the school board.

The school district dismissed her petition as deficient after a challenge to it was filed. Janis sued asking to be placed back on the ballot.

The school district has asked the judge to dismiss the case in part because it says the case does not belong in federal court but instead should be heard in state court.

Janis says she hopes she will prevail.

"As a former foster child going through different systems and also the Rapid City Area School District system I really believe that my voice will help the board of education," she said. "I'm really hoping the judge sees the case in a fair light and let's me on the ballot."

Brian Johnson, the other candidate who filed petitions to run for the school board in Area 3 declined to comment after the hearing.

The clock is ticking on the case. The Pennington County Auditor must have the ballots for the June 4 election finalized by the end of April.