Law & Courts

U.S. High Court Rejects Case of School Employees Fired After Hurricane Katrina

By Corey Mitchell — May 18, 2015 1 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of thousands of New Orleans schools employees who lost their jobs after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

A post on the Supreme Court website indicates that the justices reviewed the appeal in April, but ultimately decided against hearing the case, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune first reported.

About 7,500 teachers and staff members were part of the suit, the paper reported.

The school employees’ suit began as an effort to prevent mass firings after flooding from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 shut down schools and prompted a citywide evacuation. With the plaintiffs arguing that their due process rights had been violated, the lawsuit evolved into a wrongful termination action that took years to even come to trial.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs made the case 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 New Orleans system, in the state Recovery School District, or in charter schools.

In 2012, a state district court ruled in favor of the employees and agreed that they were entitled to damages, a ruling that education officials said could cost the state and the New Orleans school board as much as $1.5 billion in back pay and benefits.

An appellate court largely upheld that ruling.

But Louisiana’s Supreme Court rejected the suit last fall. The New Orleans Times-Picayune called that decision “a stunning, wholesale reversal of trial and appeals court decisions.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.