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Judicial Watch Victory: Appellate Court Reverses and Allows Judicial Watch Taxpayer Lawsuit over Racially Discriminatory Minneapolis Teachers’ Contract to Proceed

Contract Explicitly Discriminates on Behalf of Racial Minorities 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and allows Judicial Watch’s historic lawsuit filed on behalf of a Minneapolis taxpayer over a teachers’ contract that provides discriminatory job protections to certain racial minorities to proceed (Clapp v. Cox et al. (No. 27-CV-22-12454)).

Hennepin County District Court had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Judicial Watch’s taxpayer client lacked standing and that her claims were not ripe. Judicial Watch appealed and, on December 4, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision, ruling that Judicial Watch’s client does have standing as a taxpayer who helps fund Minneapolis Public Schools through property taxes and her claims are ripe because the lawsuit alleges an actual future controversy using public funds.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in August of 2022 against the superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), and the Minneapolis Board of Education for violating the Equal Protection Guarantee of the Minnesota Constitution.

The controversial contract was agreed to in March 2022 to end a 14-day teacher strike. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers ratified the contract shortly after the agreement was reached. The Minneapolis Board of Education ratified it in May of this year.

The Judicial Watch lawsuit states:

Among other things, the contract provides preferences, protections, and privileges for MPS teachers of certain races and ethnicities under a section entitled “ARTICLE 15. PROTECTIONS FOR EDUCATORS OF COLOR.” There is no similar provision covering educators who are not “of color.”

Under the contract, teachers of color are exempt from Defendant MPS’s seniority-based layoffs and reassignments, which means, when layoffs or reassignments occur, the next senior teacher who is not “of color” would be laid off or reassigned. In addition, the contract mandates that Defendants reinstate teachers of color over more senior teachers who are not “of color.”

Upon information and belief, prior to the contract, teachers were laid off or reassigned in order of seniority, with the least senior teachers laid off or reassigned first, without regard to race or ethnicity. Similarly, teachers were reinstated in order of seniority, with the more senior teachers reinstated first, without regard to race or ethnicity.

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Article 15’s preferences, protections, and privileges for certain public-school teachers on the basis of race and ethnicity violates Minnesota’s Equal Protection Guarantee, which states that “no member of this state shall be disenfranchised or deprived of any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.” Minn. Const. art. 1, § 2. The Equal Protection Guarantee is analyzed under the same principles and mandate as the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In its December 4 ruling, the Minnesota Court of Appeals states:

[The] complaint states that, before the adoption of Article 15, “teachers were laid off or reassigned in order of seniority . . . , without regard to race or ethnicity.” Teachers were also “reinstated in order of seniority, with the more senior teachers reinstated first, without regard to race or ethnicity.” But the complaint alleges that Article 15 of the March 2022 agreement altered this practice, such that “teachers of color are exempt from [the] seniority-based layoffs and reassignments, which means, when layoffs or reassignments occur, the next senior teacher who is not ‘of color’ would be laid off or reassigned.” Article 15 states:

Starting with the Spring 2023 Budget Tie-Out Cycle, if excessing a teacher who is a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers in the site, the [school district] shall excess the next least senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population, for the reasons provided in Article 15.1.2.i.

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Reinstatement must be in the inverse order of placement on lay off. The [school district] shall prioritize the recall of a teacher who is a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers in the [school district], per the definition provided in Article 15.1.2.i. To do this, the [school district] shall deprioritize the more senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population, in order to recall a teacher who is a member of an underrepresented population among licensed teachers, for the reasons provided in Article 15.1.2.i.

Article 15.1.2.i provides that the anticipated outcome of the policy is to:

remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination by the [school district]. Past discrimination by the [school district] disproportionately impacted the hiring of underrepresented teachers in the [school district], as compared to the relevant labor market and the community, and resulted in a lack of diversity of teachers. Language which refers to this Article will no longer be in effect once the teachers in the [school district] reflect the diversity of the labor market and the community served by the [school district].

The complaint alleges that MPS will lay off or reassign approximately 220 teachers between 2022 and 2027.

According to [the] complaint, Article 15 violates equal protection under the state constitution because it “provides preferences, protections, and privileges for MPS teachers of certain races and ethnicities” for layoffs and recalls. The complaint further asserts that Article 15 requires MPS to spend public money to implement this allegedly unlawful practice.

The lawsuit will go back to Hennepin County District Court for further proceedings.

The lawsuit asks the court to enter a judgement declaring all actions taken to implement the racial and ethnic preference provisions of Article 15 of the contract to be illegal. The lawsuit also asks that the court declare illegal the use of any taxpayer dollars to implement these provisions of the contract and that MPS be prohibited from taking any actions to implement these racial and ethnic provisions.

“This is a big court victory for taxpayers who are outraged that Minneapolis’ school system would engage in blatant racial discrimination in employing teachers,” stated Judicial Watch Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch will move with all due speed to gather evidence in discovery. This lawsuit aims to shut down this extreme leftist attack on the bedrock constitutional principle that no one can be denied equal treatment under the law on account of race.”

Judicial Watch is being assisted in the lawsuit by Daniel N. Rosen of Rosen LLC in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The City of Asheville, NC, in January 2022 settled a Judicial Watch federal civil rights lawsuit after agreeing to remove all racially discriminatory provisions in a city-funded scholarship program. Additionally, the city also agreed to remove racially discriminatory eligibility provisions in a related program that provides grants to educators.

In May 2022, Judicial Watch won a court battle against California’s gender quota law for corporate boards. The verdict came after a 28-day trial. The verdict followed a similar ruling in Judicial Watch’s favor in April finding California’s diversity mandate for corporate boards unconstitutional.

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