The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a pivotal affirmative action case for review during its 1997-98 term. The case centers around whether the New Jersey Piscataway School Board legally or illegally laid off a white woman teacher rather than an equally qualified African-American woman teacher. Lower courts have ruled that the school board illegally fired the white teacher. New Jersey law requires tenured teachers to be laid-off in reverse order of seniority. Two equally qualified teachers, Sharon Taxman and Debra Williams, started their jobs on the same day nine years ago. Taxman, who is white, was laid-off and Williams, the only person of color in a 10-teacher business department, was not laid-off. In 1975, the school board adopted an affirmative-action plan when “candidates appear to be of equal qualification.”
During a question and answer session with a group of Hispanic Americans, President Bill Clinton strongly reaffirmed his commitment to affirmative action programs. Clinton commented, “I’m not willing to give up on affirmative action in education. I’m not about to give up on it, and we are exploring what our legal options are as well as what policies we might implement to try to stop public high education in America from becoming resegregated.” The President did not comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to review the New Jersey affirmative action case.