Jamaican Teachers Sue Glynn Schools; the Pair's Contracts Weren't Renewed, and Their Suit Challenges a 1938 Law

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK -- A federal lawsuit filed by two Jamaican teachers against the Glynn County Board of Education and Superintendent Michael Bull challenges the constitutionality of a Georgia law that forbids the employment of foreign-born workers if a qualified American citizen is available for the job.

Heather Chang and Lorna Johnson are in the United States legally and intend to become naturalized citizens, according to their lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Chang is a second-grade teacher at Goodyear Elementary School. Johnson is a technology teacher at Risley Middle School.

At issue is whether a 1938 Georgia law, known as the State Alien Statute, trumps the authority of the federal government to control immigration and naturalization in the United States.

The law bans state government entities, such as public school systems, from employing "any alien for any purpose until a thorough investigation has been made and it is ascertained that there is no qualified American citizen available to perform the duty desired."

The Glynn school board used the law last month when it voted unanimously not to renew contracts for Johnson, Chang and three other foreign-born teachers for the 2006-07 school year.

The board later reversed that decision and approved contracts for the other three teachers -- Ann Lanford of Scotland and Ernest Pascoe and Leonie Palmer, who are both Jamaican -- after Bull presented documentation essentially justifying their continued employment.

Chang and Johnson allege they are being discriminated against. They are asking a federal judge to declare the law unconstitutional and void. They are seeking an injunction against the school board and Bull to stop them from using the law "to avoid the employment of aliens" in the Glynn public school system, according to the lawsuit.

In addition, the teachers want unspecified damages to compensate them for "their emotional suffering and infringement of their constitutional rights," according to the lawsuit. …