Education A National Roundup

Judge Orders Firing of Workers Delayed in New Orleans

By Catherine Gewertz — February 07, 2006 1 min read

Two citizens’ groups have filed lawsuits in New Orleans, one challenging the termination of district employees and another contending that some children are being turned away from school.

In one suit, a lawyer for seven employees won a court order delaying by one week the effective date for the terminations of district employees who have not returned to work after Hurricane Katrina. He argued that the employees were entitled to 60 days’ notice, which would make the firings effective Feb. 8, instead of Jan. 31, as the district had contended.

The change produced confusion, however, about whether the 8,500 employees would then be ineligible for federally guaranteed insurance benefits during that week. The district assured them last week in a statement that their insurance would remain in effect through Jan. 31, and they would be covered retroactively as long as they applied for coverage by early March.

A separate class action was filed on behalf of families whose children have been turned away from New Orleans schools. Some parents of students with disabilities were told a particular school was not accepting pupils with disabilities as severe as their children’s, said lawyer Tracie L. Washington. Students in regular education have been rejected because schools were full, but Ms. Washington contends some of those schools actually have openings.

State officials were working late last week to place the students with disabilities, Ms. Washington said. And they have said that the capacity problem will be solved when two more schools open in New Orleans later this month.