Federal Court Requires Board To Hire Minority Head Football Coach

Jul 4, 2008

In a case, whose origins extended back to the 1960s and the days of the Civil Rights Movement, a federal judge has ordered a school district to hire an African-American Head Football Coach it had originally passed over in hopes of achieving a more racially balanced school system.
The court began its analysis by pointing to its initial injunctive ruling in the 1960s in Joyce Marie Moore, et. al. v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board, et. al., when the Court ordered the Tangipahoa School Board “to make affirmative attempts to desegregate its public schools and make all good faith efforts to eradicate the vestiges of de jure segregation. As part of its affirmative duty to make good faith efforts to desegregate its schools and eradicate the vestiges of de jure segregation therein, the parties convened, obtaining assistance and recommendation of professors from Tulane University, New York University and the University of Oklahoma, and agreed upon the set of ‘Objective Criteria’ to be used in hiring job applicants after the Board reached a 40-60 ratio of African-American and Caucasian employees.”
Details of this arrangement and how it would be executed emerged over time. Specifically, the parties agreed that “as vacancies arise in the categories of: high school principals, agricultural teachers, band directors, vocal music teachers, coaches, athletic directors, and central office administrators, the school system would be required to appoint African-Americans to fill such vacancies so that the 40-60 ratio could be achieved.”
The court also emphasized that this mandate superseded objective criteria that had been developed for making new hires. Notably, “until the 40-60 ratio was achieved in the employment categories where it was required, the court mandated that qualified African-Americans be hired. But once the 40-60 ratio was achieved, the school system could then use the objective criteria as the basis for its selection of job applicants.”
When Alden Foster applied for the position of Amite High School Head Football Coach in 2007, he was rejected for the position, and a Caucasian man was hired. Foster was a recent “Coach of the Year” recipient from adjoining St. Helena Parish, a graduate of Amite High School, and a possessor of a Masters Degree in Secondary Education.
“Prior to filing proceedings before this court, the plaintiffs requested the designated Compliance Officer in the district investigate the failure to hire Foster. She recommended that Foster be hired as head football coach due to the subjective nature of the objective criteria used and the premature commencement of the use of the criteria as the 40-60 ratio had never been achieved.”
“Since this series of orders and occurrences, the Board has presented no credible evidence that the 40-60 ratio was achieved in the category of high school coaches. As such, the board prematurely commenced the use of the objective criteria in its hiring practices. The defendant’s conclusory summaries of compliance with the 40-60 ratio do not represent adequate documentation and evidence that said ratio has been met … . The court orders noted above were violated when the Board failed to hire Alden Foster, a highly qualified African-American applicant for the Amite High School head football coaching position.”
After tipping its hand on how it would rule, the court went on to address various arguments for the defendant, such as the plaintiff’s Title VII complaint, and the defendant’s contention that that it preempts or would stay the plaintiff’s efforts to obtain “relief available from employment discrimination under other civil rights laws, including 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 as applied under the Fourteenth Amendment.
“While the law necessitates the exhaustion of administrative remedies in order to maintain a suit for redress in federal district court in Title VII actions, such an exhaustion is rightfully inapplicable to Alden Foster’s claim. As previously noted, the claims of Alden Foster consist of a motion filed to benefit a non-party whose interest are within the zone of protected interests of the court’s orders. Although Defendant implores the Court to require a separate Title VII action addressing Alden Foster’s claims, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Further Relief and Evidentiary Hearing in re: Alden Foster (Rec. Doc. No. 534) was properly filed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 71. It does not represent a new or separate lawsuit seeking redress as a result of a Title VII violation. As such, no legal support exists that would require the exhaustion of administrative remedies of a Fed. R. Civ. P. 71 motion.”
The court also addressed the defendant’s challenge of the plaintiff’s disparate impact claim.
“In the case at bar, the defendant asserts that the lack of African-American coaches resulted from the decline in the number of qualified black applicants for teaching positions,” wrote the court. “However, the defendant’s rebuttal misses the bull’s eye as it fails to address the precise issue before the court regarding disparate impact, which is how the use of the Objective Criteria resulted in disparate impact. Simply pointing to the decline in the number of applicants does not address the relevant question of the disparate impact caused by the use of Objective Criteria.
“Due to the failure of the Board to take the necessary actions to comply with court order, this Court must take action to guard against disparate impact in hiring and to assist with the creation a unitary system.”
Lastly, the court concluded that “the use of racial classifications are justified by the compelling state purpose to create a unitary school system. Forty-three years after this case was filed, the interest of achieving this goal has not dissipated. Rather, achieving a unitary school system remains a preeminent community concern. This record contains more than just a mere citation to prior societal discrimination. Rather, the record contains convincing evidence of prior discrimination by the Board, which necessitated the series of orders of the court to address the vestiges of de jure segregation. See Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Educ., 476 U.S. 267, 106 S.Ct. 1842, 90 L. Ed. 2d 260 (1986). The passage of time does not discharge the Board of its duty to comply with court orders or pardon it from its duty to ensure that the vestiges of the dual school system resulting from de jure segregation are eradicated. This Court cannot continue to allow the Tangipahoa School Board’s interpretation of “all deliberate speed” to further eschew the attainment of a unitary school system.”
Joyce Marie Moore, et al. v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board, et al.; E.D. La.; CIVIL ACTION NO. 65-15556 SEC. “B”(1), 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35238; 4/30/08
Attorneys of record: (for plaintiffs) Nelson Dan Taylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, J. K. Haynes Legal Defense Fund, Baton Rouge, LA; Gideon Tillman Carter, III, Gideon T. Carter, III, Attorney at Law, Baton Rouge, LA; James Austin Gray, II, Gray & Gray, New Orleans, LA. (for defendants) Charles L. Patin, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Kean Miller (Baton Rouge), Baton Rouge, LA; Alton Barney Lewis, Jr., Cashe Lewis Coudrain & Sandage, Hammond, LA; Christopher M. Moody, Moody & Moody, Hammond, LA.


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