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Monday, July 8, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Biased NYC Teacher Test Held Down on Appeal

MANHATTAN (CN) - New York City remains liable for discriminatory teacher certification exams, the 2nd Circuit ruled, shutting the book on a case that has flitted between district and appellate courts for nearly two decades.

In 1996, four teachers led by Elsa Gulino filed a federal class action lawsuit that accused the New York City Board of Education of systematically excluding minority applicants by forcing teachers to take the Core Battery exam and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST).

The teachers said that this caused qualified black and Latino applicants to lose jobs, receive demotions to substitute status, and lose wages, benefits, and seniority enjoyed by full-time, tenured public school teachers.

U.S. District Judge Constance Motley found in 2003 after a five-month trial that the Core test passed muster under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but she found that the plaintiffs established "disparate impact" on the LAST.

Motley also that determined that the city established a valid defense that both of these tests were "job related."

The 2nd Circuit reversed Motley's second finding on appeal in 2006. On remand, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood found the city liable six years later for LAST. Her 51-page ruling detailed the case's extensive history.

A three-judge panel with the federal appeals court affirmed Tuesday.

Joshua Sohn, representing some of the plaintiffs as a litigation partner for DLA Piper, said in a statement that the ruling "paves the way for the plaintiff teachers to finally begin receiving the compensation to which they have long been entitled."

Sohn's firm indicated in a statement that Judge Wood had selected a special master to administer the claims process, and that class notice should be sent out soon.

The legal battle may continue, however, before that comes to pass.

"We are disappointed in the decision which, in our opinion, improperly penalizes the Department of Education for circumstances over which the department has no control," city lawyer Mordecia Newman said in a statement. "We are reviewing our options."

The case echoes another hard-fought lawsuit over discriminatory entrance exams for the New York City Fire Department.

Last year, the 2nd Circuit upheld a modified version of a court order meant to reform a "distressing pattern of limited FDNY minority hiring."

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