TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of former employees of Arizona’s second largest school district by enrollment were blacklisted from ever working for the district again, despite never having serious disciplinary issues on their employment records.
And it’s unclear why many of the ex-workers for the Tucson Unified School District were ever put on a long-rumored blacklist or who put them on it.
Many of the former employees were never told they were blacklisted, the Arizona Star reported .
District officials say the former employees were put on the blacklist because of “personality clashes” with supervisors, poor evaluation scores and using all of their vacation time.
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None of those infractions are grounds for firing or blacklisting, the newspaper reported.
The district recently publicly acknowledged for the first time that it kept a secret “Do Not Hire List” that dated back two decades and contained as many as 1,400 entries.
Newly-hired district Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo ordered an audit of the list, which found only 516 people had been justifiably blacklisted. Those people had either been fired for cause or had resigned and signed a separation agreement stating they would not be eligible to work in the district again.
The other roughly 900 employees had been wrongly blacklisted.
Trujillo said what probably started as an earnest attempt to ensure teachers who have proven themselves to be unfit don’t get back into classrooms morphed into a kind of free-for-all where site administrators were able to add people to the list with no oversight.
“I think there was some attempt to create this informal list of people who were sort of difficult employees, who weren’t fired, but let’s just keep this list of people we would just rather see not come back,” he said, noting that is not a sound legal practice. “Then over time, more people had access to it, and it just became the principal could just call HR and say (this employee) always comes in late, he doesn’t turn in lesson plans, I don’t think he’s a good fit. Then all of a sudden you’re on this list.”
Trujillo now worries the district has left itself vulnerable to lawsuits or worse.
Employees who can prove they suffered as a consequence from being wrongly blacklisted may have a case to sue the district for damages.
Under Arizona law, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to engage in blacklisting, which is defined as transmitting a list of names among two or more employers or supervisors to prohibit someone from working.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said if anyone is prevented from working without just cause, that is “troubling and possibly illegal.”
Trujillo said the school district’s attorney stated the list opened the district up to “significant legal liability.”
“I’m very concerned the district is going to be sued,” Trujillo said.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com