School District Removes Non-Christian Preference from Teacher Contracts

The Ferndale School District, north of Detroit, has agreed to delete a clause in its teacher contract that gives employment preference to people “of the non-Christian faith.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential reported that the discriminatory clause, which apparently was inserted in the 1970s and which had been unenforced and unnoticed until this week, appeared on page 22 of the lengthy contract.  There is a nondiscrimination clause earlier in the contract.

Regarding promotion to a vacant position, the contract stated:

Should there be two (2) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications for the position and one (1) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications is a current employee, the current employee with the greatest seniority shall be assigned. Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith. However, in all appointments to vacant positions, the Board’s decision shall be final.

According to Michigan Confidential:

Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and public services on the basis of religion. The state constitution says it, “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” And the Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

The illegal contract provision came to the attention of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which found in a recent study that an estimated 60% of Michigan’s public school districts have contracts which contain illegal provisions.  Other problematic contract provisions include:

  • a “Super-Seniority” clause in the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District which makes it impossible to lay off the president of the teachers’ union or the chief union negotiator, and
  • a clause in the Brighton Area Schools collective bargaining contract which stipulates “No written reference to test results will be used in teacher evaluation.”  
  • a contract in Bay City which permitted teachers to be “drunk and on drugs” several times before being fired.

Shelley Yorke Rose, a spokeswoman for the Ferndale School District, told Michigan Confidential that the 2,190-student district didn’t realize the language was there in the contract, and that they have not discriminated against people of faith in their hiring practices.  The district and the Ferndale Education Association have agreed to strike the clause from their new contract, which was ratified on March 5 and which is effective through 2017.  “Unfortunately,” Rose said, “there are no employees in the district who have been here long enough to explain the origins of the language, which we estimate to have been inserted between 1976-79.”

Michigan State Rep. Tim Kelly has called for the state Board of Education to investigate. The Saginaw Township Republican says he’s glad the language is being purged, but adds it’s disturbing it was put there in the first place.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Kathleen

    Rather difficult to believe that the wording has been there for 30 years and no one noticed it before, and no one knows who wrote it.

  • It’s standard affirmative action boilerplate and covers what they thought of as “diversity” in 1976. The situation where it *could* be used would be extremely rare.

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    As a former teacher-union member I am convinced the current union contract negotiating system is wildly out of whack.
    When unions negotiate with private companies the company negotiators truly represent the company and the unions have no way to threaten the company negotiators.
    But public employee unions can make all sorts of threats against the elected politicians who have the final say in a contract. They can raise huge sums of money to help OR attack politicians who won’t do their bidding.
    Imagine if GE negotiators could be threatened with firing if a union didn’t like the contract offered to them. But that is the gun under which city negotiators have to negotiate. No wonder city after city is going financially bust.
    Even FDR and early AFL-CIO leaders thought public employee unions were a bad,bad idea