Minneapolis Public Schools settles lawsuit over classes taught by unlicensed teachers, establishes fund to compensate students

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will establish a compensatory fund for former Broadway High School students to settle a class-action lawsuit filed against the district in 2012. The Minneapolis School Board voted to approve the settlement during its September 10 meeting.

Broadway is a Minneapolis alternative high school that serves pregnant and parenting teens, and also provides free child care and other support services. In an exclusive interview with the MSR last week at the Davis Center, MPS officials said that ongoing discussions between the district and the plaintiffs began last November, and in July they reached a preliminary settlement agreement.

“The district always had the position that we wanted to do what was best for the students, and we wanted to make sure that we could provide the opportunity that was in the best interest of these students,” explained MPS Assistant General Counsel Cedrick Frazier.

The class-action lawsuit was filed last year after a 2010 district investigation found that unlicensed teachers taught certain subjects at the school between 2008 and 2011. As a result, some credits were reclassified as electives rather than required.

“No students lost any credits,” said Frazier (left), adding that MPS provided services for affected students such as extended school days, Saturday programs and tutoring. Some students who used the services were able to graduate on time or even ahead of schedule.

A $404,934 compensatory fund will be available for over 650 students who attended Broadway and received credit in affected courses during the three years. Students who had credits reclassified also will receive additional compensation.

“From that fund, students will be able to [be] reimbursed for taking GED courses, transportation, child care — similar services that were provided to these girls while they were attending the Broadway school at the time,” explained Frazier, adding that about 45 students and an estimated 91 credits were directly affected.

MPS will contact the students by mailing notices to addresses on file as well as public notices placed in local newspapers, he added. “The fund will last for three years. After that, any amount left over will be earmarked for our teen pregnancy program in the district,” said Frazier.

Associate Superintendent Sara Paul (right) said that the district has taken the necessary steps to ensure that Broadway will provide quality education for all students. “We have been audited by MDE [Minnesota Department of Education]” and were commended, she pointed out. “We are internally monitoring — we are not expecting others to do that for us.”

“Nobody’s proud of what happened three years ago,” surmised Frazier. “We’re definitely hoping that the public and the students will see [the settlement] as a gesture that the district is really dedicated to their educational successes. We’re hoping that this will move everyone forward so it can be some closure for those students and for the community at large. That’s the whole idea of this agreement.”

Paul said Broadway, now located in the Longfellow building on Lake Street in South Minneapolis, has a new principal and “enrollment and attendance has been increasing.”

(Photos courtesy of Minneapolis Public Schools)

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    Charles Hallman

    Charles Hallman writes regularly for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and blogs at Another View.