Piscataway Payoff Delays Civil Rights Reform

Project 21 Press Release

For Release: November 21, 1997

Contact: Roderick Conrad at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]

Fearing the results of a Supreme Court defeat, civil rights organizations are keeping a major case from going before the Court by paying a majority of the cost to settle it.

The school board of Piscataway, New York, voted yesterday to accept an offer by the Black Leadership Forum, a coalition of civil rights groups, to pay 70% of the $433,500 in back wages and interest white business teacher Sharon Taxman says the school owes as a result of her racially motivated dismissal. The Supreme Court was to hear arguments on January 14th of next year.

When Piscataway High School was forced to cut it’s business teaching staff by one member in 1989, it chose Taxman over the Debra Williams because they felt the fact that Williams was black helped promote diversity. Both women were hired on the same day, so seniority could not be used as a factor. Taxman was rehired in 1992, but continued a lawsuit to receive back pay. A federal judge awarded her $144,000 in 1993, which was on appeal until now.

Project 21 Director Roderick Conrad says that, “It is a shame these groups are paying so much money in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. This sort of tactic flies in the face of Martin Luther King’s dream of equality and a colorblind society. If only they could have raised this kind of money to actually help minority communities rather than to buy themselves out of a losing case. We can expect more cases like this in the future, and it does no service to minorities to have money spent in their name to simply pay off plaintiffs.”

For interviews contact Roderick Conrad at 202/543-4110 .


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