Mitchell F. Crusto Dialogues on Constitutional Rights for Mass Termination of Public School Teachers/Employees after Hurricane Katrina

Mitchell F. Crusto facilitated a dialogue among Louisiana judges and lawyers on the status of substantive and procedural due process in Louisiana law, following the recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision on the mass termination of public school teachers and employees that occurred immediately after Hurricane Katrina.  The discussion was held at 21th Annual CLE of Louisiana, sponsored by the Judicial Council of Louisiana and the National Bar Association, in La Romana, Dominican Republic, on July 11, 2015.  Crusto’s presentation, entitled “Involuntary Heroes: How Hurricane Katrina Challenges Our Commitment to Civil Liberties,” explored the state of due process in Louisiana, especially as it relates to public employment termination law, following the recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision in Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board.

Crusto concludes that the mass termination of thousands of devoted, veteran New Orleans public school teachers, including Gwendolyn Adams, was one of the worst civil rights injustices to occur in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Following a disaster, people often lose their employment, especially following a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, which caused such widespread misery to people and devastation of a community, property, businesses, and schools.  But when the state government takes advantage of a disaster to summarily terminate hardworking public school teachers and other employees who have just experienced unprecedented personal losses, there are both moral and constitutional issues raised.

“In essence, the state government used a disaster to punish experienced teachers, contrary to fairness and due process.  As a result of the state government’s takeover of the New Orleans schools, Gwendolyn Adams and other public school teachers lost more than their homes, they lost their jobs and in a manner that made them feel, as Gwendolyn described, “thrown…away…like last week’s trash.”   She contested that she would still be teaching today if it were not for the state takeover of the New Orleans public schools after Hurricane Katrina.  Public school teachers in New Orleans and nationally deserve a U.S. Constitution that protects their commitment to serve the often at-risk youth in our nation’s public schools.”

Crusto currently serves as Henry F. Bonura, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law. His legal scholarship focuses on the inter-disciplinary intersections between law and society, especially business and the environment, the constitution and equality, insurance and fairness, and the law of sole proprietors and unconscious classism. Crusto's  upcoming book, entitled INVOLUNTARY HEROES: HURRICANE KATRINA’S IMPACT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES, is being published by Carolina Academic Press in August 2015.