Appellate court allows lawsuit against Minneapolis Public Schools to proceed over protections for teachers of color

A lawsuit against Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) can go forward after the state’s appellate court overturned a lower court’s decision.

The lawsuit, filed by conservative group Judicial Watch in August 2022 on behalf of Minneapolis resident Deborah Clapp, claims the language in the district’s teachers’ contract violates the state’s equal protection guarantee.

However, a district court ruled that Clapp lacked standing and her claims weren’t ripe, thereby dismissing the lawsuit. The group appealed and, on Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed that Clapp does have standing as a taxpayer who helps fund the district through property taxes and the claims are ripe because the lawsuit alleges an actual future controversy using public funds.

The contract provision at issue is Article 15, which states that the district should not excess a teacher who is a member of an underrepresented population at a school and should instead excess the next least senior teacher. It goes on to say that the policy aims to “remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination” by the district.

That language was set during the collective bargaining process amid a teacher strike in 2022. In response to outrage from some people after the provision became public, the district said the measure “aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups as compared to the labor market and to the community served by the school district.”

The lawsuit will now head back to the district court for further proceedings. The court initially didn’t rule on the district’s argument that the lawsuit doesn’t state a claim on which relief can be granted because the provision “is facially constitutional,” so that is likely to be addressed in the near-term.