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Justice Dept. Urges High Court Not to Review Case Over Teachers' Exam


The U.S. Department of Justice is urging the Supreme Court not to take up an appeal stemming from a lawsuit that contends that a state teachers' exam has a disparate impact on black and Latino test-takers in the New York City school system.

As I reported in Education Week here, a group of black and Latino teachers in New York City sued New York state and the New York City school system in 1996. The plaintiffs alleged that two tests used by the state had a racially disparate impact on African-American and Latino test-takers, and that those in the city system who failed to pass the test were demoted to substitute-teacher status, for which they were received less pay and reduced benefits.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, partially revived the lawsuit in a 2006 decision, ordering a federal district court to reconsider whether the New York City school system was potentially liable for the disparate impact of the state's teacher test under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The New York City school system appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which asked for the federal government's views.

In a brief filed just before the Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement said the 2nd Circuit court was incorrect in ruling that the school district may be liable under Title VII for the disparate impact of the state's licensing test.

But, the brief said, the case was a poor vehicle for deciding the issue because the 2nd Circuit opinion does not conflict with any other federal appeals courts on that issue and because there has been no final ruling from the district court.

(Thanks to SCOTUSblog for the tip and the link to the solicitor general's brief.)


Proving a racial bias by the state in a matter such as this will surely be difficult. It's hard to prove bias when it comes to a results driven situation. On the one hand, the state will argue that they went completely by test scores and that they plaintiffs were African American and Latino was purely coincidental; on the other hand, the plaintiffs will reply that the fact that there were only blacks and latinos affectec couldn't have been a coincidence. This will be a difficult one to deal with, especially since it involves teachers.

That is really a pity! I hope they failed just because they weren't as good as the others and not because of anything else.

I think this post is right on “target”.

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