Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking To Overturn Seniority

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Judge Mary Jacobsen dismissed a lawsuit brought by six Newark parents seeking to overturn New Jersey’s teacher seniority law earlier this week.  Plaintiffs challenging the “last in, first out” (LIFO) rule claiming the law enables ineffective teachers with seniority to remain in classrooms while newer, more effective teachers are let go whenever districts face layoffs for budgetary reasons.

Judge Jacobson found that plaintiffs had failed to show that their children were hurt by any layoffs in Newark, since the state-controlled district has not had any layoffs nor any foreseeable plans to do so. Newark has, for years, kept teachers deemed ineffective on the payroll but not assigned them to full-time teaching positions as a way to avoid firing effective teachers.

“The complaint is completely devoid of facts that any of these individual students have been harmed by a reduction in force,” Jacobson said in explaining her decision to dismiss the case.

The judge indicated the plaintiffs could re-plead their case if facts present themselves.

The complaint had named as defendants the state’s acting education commissioner, Kimberley Harrington; the state Board of Education; the Newark school district; and the district’s state-appointed superintendent, Christopher Cerf.  The NJEA and AFT intervened in the matter and had filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

The case was pushed by the New York-based education reform group Partnership for Educational Justice.  PEJ is affiliated with two other similar cases. The group won its New York case, but the state is appealing that decision, a spokeswoman for PEJ said. The group lost its case in Minnesota but is appealing that decision, she said.