Appeals court reverses decision against Fairbanks teacher

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A Lebanon-born teacher who claimed an Alaska school district discriminated against her was unlawfully denied a permanent teaching position, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision against Nada Raad.

Raad filed a complaint in 1993 with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights alleging discrimination. The district court erred when it failed to consider evidence most favorable to her, the appeals court found in reversing all but one of the earlier findings.

Raad began teaching in the district in 1991. She alleged officials from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District told her several times that her accent was an obstacle to full-time employment.

But the appeals court found evidence that Raad's accent didn't impair her performance. In fact, her record included recommendations by Raad's graduate school instructors and several requests for her as a substitute by other teachers employed by the Fairbanks school district.

Raad's lawyer, Robert Sparks, said his client was elated with the news that her case appeared to be headed for trial.

We've always thought that we've had a very strong discrimination case against the school,'' Sparks said. We don't have room in our school district for discrimination like this.''

Bett Schaffhaufer, the school district's employment and education opportunity director, insisted Thursday after reading the opinion that there was always a more qualified applicant hired at the time Raad applied.

After the rejection of her third request for a permanent position in 1993, Raad said she made statements at the district's office that the staff reported to police as a bomb threat.

But the appeals court found Raad's statements about being angry and not wanting to blow up'' may have been misinterpreted.

The appeals court reversed the summary judgment, except for one of Raad's two retaliation claims, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Raad since has graduated with a doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Alaska and currently works in the construction industry, her lawyer said. She continues to seek back pay and a permanent teaching position within the school district.

The case is Raad v. Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, No. 00-35999.

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