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Michigan School District Gave Hiring Preference to 'Non-Christians' for Over 30 Years

( [email protected] ) Mar 21, 2014 12:54 PM EDT

Michigan School District Gave Hiring Preference to Non-Christians for Over 30 Years.jpg
(Photo: FoxNews.com)

A Michigan teacher's union clause has been in place for more than 30 years describing special consideration for hiring to be given to "women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith."

But the good news is that this written policy has recently been scrapped, thanks to the outcry of critics and baffled officials on anti-discrimination. 

The contract came out of Ferndale Public Schools in Michigan's Oakland County, just north of Detroit. District officials say that they were completely unaware of the clause that may have been put in around 1979. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy found the discrepancy while reviewing teacher contracts as part of a nonpartisan research push in the state's 200 largest public school districts.

Ferndale Public Schools spokeswoman Shelley Rose reached out to FoxNews.com to clarify that this wording was never enacted to their knowledge. "This language dates back to at least 1979, and is not in compliance with current legislation. Fortunately, the district also has newer and strong anti-discrimination language in the contracts and has never, in our known history, enacted this now out-of-date language."

Rose went on to relay the urgency in which the contract wording had been changed. "Discovery of this antiquated language and the ensuing media storm is embarrassing to the district, but has afforded us an opportunity to update our contracts to reflect current law and long-time anti-discrimination practices. Ferndale Public Schools takes the issue of discrimination seriously and has acted swiftly to resolve this unfortunate contract language issue."

Mackinac spokesman Ted O'Neil is skeptical: "At this point, we have to extend good will and take it at their word that it's been there since the 1970's, but it should never have been there in the first place. Typically, these contracts are updated every three years. They should be going through these things very carefully and it's surprising it wasn't caught before."

Commenter "davecross" on the Oakland Press claims that negotiating labor agreements like this is usually a careful process. "The Ferndale contract is 87 pages, including the appendices. The pay scales are on pages 79-82. If the discriminatory language [is] on page 22 and wasn't read, I wonder if anyone looked at the pay scales. As one who has negotiated labor agreements, I can assure you that every single word is reviewed in preparation for negotiations."

O'Neil went on to voice his thoughts on the potential consequences this type of wording may have had in the 30+ years that it's been part of this system. "I think it definitely is possible that it either cost someone a job change or at one point dissuaded someone from changing jobs if they knew that clause existed."

Michigan State Rep. Tim Kelly has pushed for the state's Board of Education to investigate the matter. Kelly says he's glad that the language is being purged from the contract but is concerned about why it was put in there in the first place.