Lawsuit filed over provision that could result in white teachers being fired first in Minneapolis

A lawsuit has been filed over a new teacher retention policy at Minneapolis Public Schools that critics say could result in white teachers being laid off first.

The policy states that when there are layoffs, "under-represented" teachers should be skipped over for someone who is not in the "under-represented" category, despite seniority.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of taxpayer Deborah Clapp by the conservative organization Judicial Watch, is asking the court to prevent the implementation of the policy that was part of the new teacher's contract. The lawsuit argues the policy violates the state constitution.

The teachers union says the provision is designed to help retain teachers of color within a district that is lacking diversity. The union stands by the policy, accusing the right-wing group behind the lawsuit of playing politics.

"The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals continue to fight for policies that retain the skills and experiences that are underrepresented in our union, including the skills and experiences our teachers of color bring to their classrooms every day," the union wrote. "Although our union has not been sued by Judicial Watch, a far-right organization affiliated with the Koch-funded State Policy Network, we regret to see Minneapolis Public Schools will be forced to divert time and resources away from the real crisis – fully staffing our schools with the teachers and other educators that MPS needs to provide the world-class education our students deserve."

The district also echoed the union's statement, telling FOX 9 last week that the policy is "to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination" and "aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups." The district didn't comment Tuesday on the new lawsuit.

Speaking with FOX 9, a teacher also defended the policy. "This contract language is a small step to restoring the balance," said Muhammad. "When integration happened, it took the black students and students of color and left the black teachers."

It's fair to note, layoffs don't seem to be on the horizon as many districts are struggling to find teachers and other staff to fill open positions.