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 jsmith@goodwin.com, Dori Pagé Antonetti at dantonetti@goodwin.com, or Sarah Gleason at segleason@goodwin.com.

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Photo of Jessica Richman Smith Jessica Richman Smith

Jessica represents schools in a variety of education, labor relations and employment law matters.  She negotiates certified and non-certified collective bargaining agreements on behalf of numerous public boards of education.  Jessica also represents school districts in labor and employment disputes, freedom of information…

Jessica represents schools in a variety of education, labor relations and employment law matters.  She negotiates certified and non-certified collective bargaining agreements on behalf of numerous public boards of education.  Jessica also represents school districts in labor and employment disputes, freedom of information hearings, teacher tenure proceedings, student disciplinary matters, election law matters, and other legal proceedings arising in the education context.  In addition, Jessica advises schools on education policies and practices, compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, and other legal matters arising in the education context.

Photo of Dori Pagé Antonetti Dori Pagé Antonetti

Dori Antonetti is an associate in the School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education, and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Dori worked as a Hearing Review Officer for…

Dori Antonetti is an associate in the School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education, and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Dori worked as a Hearing Review Officer for the New York City Office of Labor Relations. Dori also clerked for Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Before law school, Dori joined Teach for America and worked as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Spanish Harlem.

Dori is proficient in Spanish.

Photo of Sarah Gleason Sarah Gleason

Sarah Gleason is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where she advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.  Prior to receiving her J.D., Sarah worked as an elementary school teacher…

Sarah Gleason is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where she advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.  Prior to receiving her J.D., Sarah worked as an elementary school teacher, and she brings that unique perspective to her practice as a school law attorney.