As public school districts across Connecticut are aware, the state has mandated that each school district develop and implement a written plan for minority educator recruitment with the goal of increasing the number of educators of color in classrooms across Connecticut. Many school districts have been grappling with how to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their schools while adhering to the legal requirement that they not discriminate against individuals on the basis of certain characteristics. Walking this tightrope can be challenging, and school districts are advised to familiarize themselves with the legal limits on what they can do to promote a more diverse educator workforce through their minority educator recruitment plan and otherwise.
Connecticut law defines the educational interests of the state to include, among other things, “the concern of the state that. . .in order to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation, each school district shall provide educational opportunities for its students to interact with students and teachers from other racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds and may provide such opportunities with students from other communities.” In addition, boards of education must “develop and implement a written plan for minority educator recruitment” for purposes of serving this educational interest. Beyond these obligations, there are no clear requirements in the law regarding what minority educator recruitment plans must include, but such plans must be developed in light of the relevant legal backdrop.
As public entities, school districts cannot deny people equal protection of their guaranteed rights, and they must ensure that they treat individuals in the same manner as others in similar circumstances. In addition, in Connecticut, boards of education are prohibited by law from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, alienage, ancestry, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, veteran status, or gender identity or expression, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification. Many boards of education also have non-discrimination policies establishing that they will not discriminate in their employment practices or educational programs on any of these bases. These laws and policies are part of the reason why districts are advised to be extremely careful in how they fulfill the mandate to engage in minority educator recruitment. What may seem like a practical way to increase diversity in the workforce could actually violate the requirement not to discriminate.
With that background, when developing and implementing minority educator recruitment plans, boards of education are advised to carefully consider the legal parameters that may guide what they can lawfully do when aiming to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Examples of what boards of education can do to promote a diverse workforce include:
- recruiting from racially diverse sources to obtain a diverse applicant pool;
- creating hiring committees that value diversity, equity, and inclusion by providing training on unconscious and implicit bias to personnel who serve on hiring committees; and
- including a diversity statement (along with a non-discrimination statement) in a position posting to let applicants know that the board values and promotes diversity.
On the other hand, examples of what boards of education cannot do as part of their diversity and inclusion efforts include:
- setting aside a certain number of positions for minority candidates;
- encouraging only minorities to apply to certain positions; and
- soliciting information from applicants about their race, national origin, or ancestry during the application process, except in a manner that guards against using the information as part of the selection process and ensures the information is provided on a voluntary basis only.
If you have specific questions about minority educator recruitment plans, please contact Jessica Richman Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, Dori Pagé Antonetti at email@example.com, or Sarah Gleason at firstname.lastname@example.org.