Opinion
Equity & Diversity Letter to the Editor

Essay Prompts Caveat: It Is Illegal To Hire, Fire Based on Race

March 11, 2014 1 min read

To the Editor:

Regarding the Commentary by Donald G. Nicolas titled “Why We Need More Black Men in Teaching” (Feb. 26, 2014): It should be borne in mind that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to weigh race in employment decisions, and this includes hiring teachers. What’s more, for public employment, the U.S. Constitution likewise makes it presumptively illegal to make decisions on the basis of race.

The federal courts have never recognized a “diversity” exception for Title VII. In addition, in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly rejected the “role model” justification in the employment context for teachers, in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education.

A decade before that, in Hazelwood School District v. United States, the court had similarly noted that a school district could not point to the racial makeup of its student body as a justification for the racial makeup of its faculty. This is not only the law. It also makes perfect sense.

As Justice Lewis Powell wrote in Wygant, “Carried to its logical extreme, the idea that black students are better off with black teachers could lead to the very system the court rejected in Brown v. Board of Education.”

There is no reason why students cannot have as role models people who do not share their skin color.

Schools should, in any event, hire the best-qualified individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity. Anything less is a disservice to the students and the community, besides being unfair to the applicants.

Roger Clegg

President and General Counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity

Falls Church, Va.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as Essay Prompts Caveat: It Is Illegal To Hire, Fire Based on Race

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Tackling the 'Taboo' of Talking About Race & Privilege
Four educators share suggestions for books and articles white educators can read to learn more about race and racism.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion How Teachers Can Get America's Story Right
The attack on the U.S. Capitol shows why we need more inclusive schools, writes a teacher advocate.
Scott Goldstein
3 min read
18Goldstein 1126473545
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Eight Strategies for Engaging in Culturally Relevant Teaching
Mariana Souto-Manning answers questions about her book, "No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching," in the final post of a two-part series.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Author Interview: 'No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching'
Mariana Souto-Manning discusses her book, which highlights designing spaces where BIPOC students feel, see, and experience belonging.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty