Los Angeles, CA; August 25, 2010: In a legal settlement responding to a Proposition 209 lawsuit by Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has rescinded its policy of race-based discrimination in teacher assignment. Therefore, PLF announced today that it has dismissed the lawsuit as of this week.
“Using race to assign teachers to schools teaches the wrong lesson— that people are defined by their race,” said PLF attorney Joshua P. Thompson. “It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to prod LAUSD to stop this policy of discrimination. But the result is a victory for equal rights and equal opportunities. This case should drive home to all school districts and government entities in California that using race to make employment decisions isn’t just wrong— it’s flat-out prohibited by the California Constitution. Government and its bureaucracies are mandated to obey Proposition 209's ban on race-based discrimination and preferences.” The case is American Civil Rights Foundation v. Los Angeles Unified School District.
Pacific Legal Foundation is the nation’s leading legal watchdog for equal protection and equal opportunities, and against race- and sex-based discrimination and preferences in government. In California, PLF has been the leading enforcer of Proposition 209 (Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution), which bars race- and sex-based discrimination and preferences in public education, employment, and contracting.
In this lawsuit PLF attorneys represented the American Civil Rights Foundation (ACRF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to monitoring and enforcing civil rights laws at all levels of government, including Proposition 209.
ACRF’s spokesman is Sacramento businessman and former University of California Regent, Ward Connerly. He issued this statement about the victory over LAUSD’s policy of race-based teacher assignments:
“It grossly shortchanges the taxpayers, not to mention our students, when teachers are assigned on the basis of race, gender, and ethnic politics rather than competence. This legal settlement and the merit-based teaching that it encourages in the LAUSD are major benefits of Proposition 209.”
The PLF lawsuit targeted LAUSD’s policy of racial discrimination and preferences in teacher-placement decisions. Specifically, the district’s “Teacher Integration Transfer Program” required the race of a teacher to be considered for any decision about a teacher’s assignment, displacement, or transfer.
Under the policy, the district attempted to achieve an arbitrary “racial balance” among the teaching staff at every school. Officials aimed to have the percentage of minority teachers at any K-12 school or magnet school mirror the percentage of minority teachers in the district as a whole.
In practice, this meant that the school district would take race into account when deciding on a teacher’s request to transfer to a particular school, or deciding which teachers would be reassigned when a school’s teaching staff had to be downsized.
For instance, if a particular school needed more white teachers to meet the racial “balance” formula, a white applicant for a transfer into that school would receive a racial preference, while a minority applicant would get less consideration.
PLF’s lawsuit challenged the LAUSD’s discriminatory policy in teacher assignments as a violation of Proposition 209. Added to the state Constitution by voters in 1996, Proposition 209 (Article I, Section 31(a)) provides that: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
Originally filed in 2005 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, PLF’s lawsuit was on hold for several years, while a federal court challenge to LAUSD’s discriminatory policy, brought by LAUSD teacher Jim Friery, was moving through the federal courts. The Friery case was eventually dismissed on procedural grounds. A year later, after discovery requests by PLF attorneys, LAUSD agreed to enter into a settlement in the PLF litigation that would withdraw the discriminatory “Teacher Integration Transfer Program.”
As of this week, all conditions of that settlement have been met, so PLF attorneys have formally withdrawn the lawsuit.
“Because of this settlement, LAUSD has pledged to stop using the skin color of teachers to decide on teacher transfer requests or teacher reassignments,” said PLF’s Joshua Thompson. “This is an important step forward in the cause of equal rights. Nobody should be discriminated against because of race or ethnicity, including school teachers.”
The outcome of this case is especially noteworthy because of the district’s size and prominence, and the large number of teachers it employs. LAUSD is the nation’s second-largest school district in the country, with 617,798 students enrolled in grades K-12, more than 30,000 teachers with full credentials and more than 3,000 without full credentials.
PLF has been litigating for years to ensure that Proposition 209 is enforced. In the seminal PLF case of Hi-Voltage Wire Works, Inc. v. City of San Jose (2000), the California Supreme Court struck down a racially discriminatory public contracting program as a violation of Proposition 209. Recently, in another PLF case, Coral Construction, Inc. v. San Francisco, the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 209 against San Francisco’s attempt to have it declared invalid under the United States Constitution.
PLF and Ward Connerly have teamed up on several cases, including the 2001 case of Connerly v. State Personnel Board, where a California appellate court held that Proposition 209 forbids employment schemes designed to maintain the racial or gender composition of the work force.
The lawsuit that led to LAUSD’s ending of discrimination in teacher transfers is entitled American Civil Rights Foundation v. Los Angeles Unified School District. The complaint, settlement, and notice of dismissal, may be viewed at PLF’s Website.