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Lee v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

June 19, 2019

ANTHONY T. LEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Intervenor and Amicus Curiae, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
MACON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On July 25, 2008, the Decatur City Board of Education (''Decatur'') filed a Motion for Declaration of Unitary Status. After discovery, comprehensive briefing and two fairness hearings, on July 3, 2012, the court granted the Motion in part and denied it in part. The court declared the Decatur City School System to be unitary in all respects except in the area of Faculty and Staff Assignment.[1] The court dissolved all outstanding orders and injunctions, except as related to the assignment of faculty and staff in the Decatur City schools. The court concluded that it would be necessary to monitor faculty and staff assignments for an additional period of time.

         On June 12, 2019, after allowing time for a new hiring procedure to be implemented and its results assessed, the court conducted a fairness hearing addressing the area of Faculty and Staff Assignment. Plaintiff-Intervenor and Amicus Curiae, the United States, has stated that it has no objection to a declaration of unitary status in the area of Faculty Assignment, and that “a declaration of unitary status by [the court] would be appropriate.” (Case No. 5:18-mc-00898-RDP, Doc. # 12 at 11).

         I. Background

         This case relating to the Decatur City Schools is part of a state-wide action against numerous Alabama school districts alleging that the state operated a compulsory segregated school system in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Lee v. Macon Co. Bd. of Education, 267 F.Supp. 458 (M.D. Ala. 1967). On March 26, 1970, the court entered an order approving a desegregation plan for Decatur's schools.

         As noted in the court's July 3, 2012 Order, following numerous conferences among the parties to this litigation and the court's approval, the parties agreed on new hiring procedures. Decatur implemented these new hiring procedures for the 2009-2010 school-year.

         At the October 19, 2011 Fairness Hearing, evidence was presented regarding Decatur's implementation of the new procedures and its efforts to recruit minorities. That evidence showed that the use of computer-based employment programs had successfully expanded the pool of minority applicants. The evidence also showed that Decatur had achieved the appropriate Singleton ratio in faculty assignments. Singleton v. Jackson Municipal Separate School Dist., 419 F.2d 1211 (5th Cir. 1969), cert denied 396 U.S. 1032 (1970).[2] However, testimony at the hearing indicated that Decatur continued to assign certified staff pursuant to the provisions of Singleton. That is, the evidence presented at the 2011 hearing showed that, even after the appropriate Singleton ratio had been achieved, race was still considered in faculty assignments to maintain no more and no less than a particular, rigid variance from that ratio.

         The parties agreed faculty hiring and assignment procedures, which have been in effect since 2009, are as follows

         a. Job Announcements. Job announcements are posted on the websites of the Alabama State Department of Education and the Decatur School System.

         b. Application Collection. Decatur retrieves all applications from the electronic SearchSoft (Hire Enterprise) database. If Decatur were to receive hard copies of applications directly, it would direct the applicant to use the database. All applications received for the various job announcements are categorized by their corresponding job announcement identifier, reviewed and maintained in a centralized database that includes the following sortable/searchable data fields: position applied for, date of application received, highest degree obtained, certifications, highly qualified status, previous work experience, special training or other work related experience. In addition, all applications for the job announcement include a request that the applicant voluntarily identify his/her race within the form.

         c. Application Intake. Applicants respond to (1) a general job announcement, and/or (2) a school-specific job announcement. Decatur uses a general job announcement to secure candidates before an actual teaching position becomes available at one of its schools. For example, Decatur will post a job announcement for a position, such as a Second Grade Teacher, in anticipation that, based on enrollment projections, it will have a need for that position at one of its schools. Decatur will post a school specific job announcement when a principal and/or supervisor currently has a need for a position.

         d. Pre-Screening Interview Process. Applicants who meet the threshold general job announcement requirements receive an email requesting that they participate in a pre-screening interview. Certified personnel must participate in a pre-screening interview. Interviews are conducted by two or three principals and/or supervisors using a standardized pre-screening interview instrument consisting of at least three preliminary questions and a scoring scale from 0-30 points. Decatur makes a concerted effort to have a diverse interview team comprised of principals and/or supervisors. The principals rank each applicant and submit an application packet containing a written evaluation of each candidate.

         Next, Decatur catalogs each application packet and a representative from the central office reviews the packet to ensure that each candidate has met the requirements of that job announcement. Decatur then uses these evaluations to create a preliminary applicant pool. Candidates who receive a score of 18 or above are designated as “HR Recommended, ” signaling to principals/supervisors that the candidate has successfully completed the pre-screening process and is eligible to interview for open positions. When a school principal and/or supervisor posts a job announcement, he/she can view the database and see an applicant list that includes candidates from the pre-screening interview applicant pool as well as candidates that were not pre-screened and may be responding to that school specific job announcement. If a candidate has not been pre-screened, the candidate cannot be considered until he or she goes through pre-screening.

         e. Applicant Selection. Principals/supervisors use the on-line data base system (SearchSoft) to search for eligible applicants to fill open positions using non-discriminatory, job related criteria. Decatur has instructed principals/supervisors to select and interview at least ten applicants from the central office's applicant pool, including the pre-screened applicants (the “interview pool”) for a job posting, unless the central office's applicant pool itself does not contain ten applicants. If fewer than ten applicants apply for a position, or fewer than ten applicants are HR recommended, ...


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