The Minnesota Court of Appeals has reversed a district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against Minneapolis Public Schools. This means the district court will hear the case filed by Judicial Watch, a national organization that advocates for right-wing political causes, on behalf of Minneapolis resident Deborah Jane Clapp, intended to stop the district from protecting underrepresented teachers from excessing and layoffs outside of seniority order.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Minneapolis Public Schools agreed to historic contract language to protect underrepresented teachers from losing their jobs, outside of seniority order, as part of the contract that settled a three week strike in March, 2022. Referred to as Article 15 for the place it appears in the collective bargaining agreement, the new provision was supposed to go into effect in Spring 2023. 

According to at least three current or former district employees, the district refused to implement the provisions of Article 15 in the Spring 2023 budget process, as directed by the contract. Minneapolis Schools Voices has filed two public data requests with the district for information about Article 15, which the district has yet to respond to.

Typically in early March, principals notify their staff if their current position is being eliminated in the coming school year. This process is called excessing. Educators with a license for the following school year then enter a complex process of reassignment within the district. Only after reassignment is complete are there layoffs when all positions are filled. 

Historically, excessing and layoff have been governed by seniority, subjecting the most recently hired teachers to excessing and layoffs before those hired before them. Teachers of color, on average, have fewer years of service than white teachers, and, proportionally, more teachers of color are subject to excessing and layoffs than white teachers. 

Timeline of the Case

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in August, 2022 in district court on behalf of Deborah Jane Clapp, a Minneapolis resident, to stop the school district from implementing the new provisions in Article 15. The board was briefed on the lawsuit in a closed session on Nov. 15, 2022.

In January, a district court judge named Christian Sande dismissed the case against the school district, interim superintendent Rochelle Cox and the school board.

On March 8, Clapp filed an appeal of the dismissal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The board was briefed in a closed session on March 14 on the lawsuit. 

The appeals court heard oral arguments for the case on Sept. 12 at 10:05 am. The school board was briefed again on the case in closed session on August 8.

The appeals court case was heard by Judge Theodora K. Gaitas, Judge Randall J. Slieter and Judge Jennifer Frisch. The judges were appointed by Governors Tim Walz, Arne Carlson, and Walz, respectively.

This is a developing story.