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Judge dismisses lawsuit over Minneapolis schools' layoff exemptions

The judge determined the plaintiff, a taxpayer rather than a laid-off teacher, did not have legal standing to make the claim. A case can be re-filed.

MINNEAPOLIS — A district judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by a Minneapolis taxpayer claiming the Minneapolis Public School District's new policy to lay off white teachers before teachers of color is unconstitutional.

Judge Christian Sande ruled that the plaintiff, Deborah Clapp, lacked legal standing to make the claim. Clapp is a taxpayer within the Minneapolis Public School district but not a teacher laid off under the new policy. Judge Sande dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning someone with legal standing could still challenge the policy in court.

The policy was written into the new teachers' contract after striking for three weeks in March. When Minneapolis teachers and the district reached a new contract agreement, they announced protections for teachers of color.

During district-wide layoffs, the new contract says "teachers who are members of underrepresented populations" are "exempted" from the last-hired, first-fired approach. That means a white teacher with more seniority would be laid off instead.

Constitutional law and U.S. Supreme Court expert Jill Hasday said the policy likely violates the state's Equal Protection Guarantee - Minnesota's version of the U.S. Constitution's racial discrimination clause in the 14th Amendment, but she predicted this may not be the lawsuit that overturns the policy.

"The court doesn't like policies where race is the only relevant factor," said Hasday, who teaches constitutional law and anti-discrimination law at the University of Minnesota.

Hasday went on to say in August that the lawsuit filed by Clapp and the Washington DC conservative foundation called Judicial Watch might not be the case to overturn the policy.

"It's much less clear whether any ordinary taxpayer in Minneapolis can sue because their injury really isn't distinct," Hasday said. 

That's exactly what Judge Sande determined, writing in his order Monday, "Without perpetrated or imminent illegal discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, the case at bar cannot be ripe for determining Clapp's standing as a taxpayer."

Watch Lou Raguse's previous reporting on this story:


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