‘Inevitable lawsuit’: Before Minneapolis, race-based policies failed in LA schools  

"They may get away with it for a while, but not over the long term," a retired Los Angeles teacher said.

Minneapolis teachers participate in a 14-day strike earlier this year. (Shutterstock)

Following national coverage of the Minneapolis school district’s race-based employment policies, Liz Collin Reports hosted a retired Los Angeles teacher who saw the same thing happen in his district over 15 years ago.

Phil Pearson worked as a special-ed teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest district in California and second largest in the country, when a similar rule to move teachers based on race was put into place.

Alpha News recently exposed a collective bargaining agreement between the Minneapolis teachers union and school district that calls for laying off white teachers before people from “underrepresented” populations.

In Los Angeles, 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,” according to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which sued over the policy.

“In the displacement, normal practice is to offer the lowest-seniority teachers positions at other schools that might have a shortage. This is what was expected to happen,” Pearson said.

Pearson said the seeds of the five-year legal battle were planted when, around 2004, three white teachers at his school were “displaced” because they weren’t minorities.

Some teachers weren’t pleased with the arrangement and took the issue to the Pacific Legal Foundation at Pearson’s recommendation. The issue was immediately challenged but took five years to resolve, ending with the district rescinding its race-based policy in 2010.

Pearson said during this five-year span, the district continued to use its policy to move teachers around based on race. In many cases, teachers did not even know this was happening.

Pearson said Minneapolis Public Schools must know this has been tried before but probably is thinking, “Oh, well let’s try this and see if we can get away with it.”

“As long as someone brings action, it’s likely that [MPS] will not succeed. They may get away with it for a while, but not over the long term,” Pearson said.

He encouraged teachers to band together and know they can be protected from retaliation for objecting to the policy.

James Dickey of the Upper Midwest Law Center said they have been contacted by a “flood of people” since the story broke, mostly Minneapolis taxpayers and teachers who disagree with the policy.

Dickey called the policy the “most counterintuitive and counterproductive measure you could possibly put on the books.”

The “government-sponsored racism” will send the wrong message to young teachers who may be thinking of working in the district, which is looking to fill hundreds of positions before the school year, he said.

He said the district can either back down or “go forward into an inevitable lawsuit.”



Rose Williams

Rose Williams is an assistant editor for Alpha News.