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Fired New Orleans Schools Staff Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

The lead attorney for thousands of former New Orleans public school employees who lost their jobs after Hurricane Katrina is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case.

The Associated Press reports that Willie Zanders released copies of his application to have the nation's highest court review the case involving teachers, aides, service workers, and other employees.

The Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed the long-running lawsuit back in October.

Flooding from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 shut down schools and prompted the evacuation of the city. The school employees' litigation began later that year as an effort to prevent them from being fired. It advanced as the state Recovery School District moved to take over most New Orleans public schools. The Recovery School District in New Orleans is now an all-charter school system.

The lawsuit evolved into a wrongful termination action that took years to even come to trial.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the state supreme court ruling was "a stunning, wholesale reversal of trial and appeals court decisions that found for the plaintiffs, with damages to the Orleans Parish school system and the state estimated as high as $1.5 billion to pay the employees' back pay and benefits."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the school system failed to follow teacher tenure law in the layoffs, and that employees should have been offered priority consideration for new jobs as schools reopened, either in the Orleans system, in the state Recovery School District, or in charter schools.

The state supreme court dismissed the suit in the fall, "in part on the grounds that the issues had been dealt with in a separate settlement with the New Orleans teachers' union. The court also found that employees' due-process rights were not violated," The Associated Press reports.

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