Rhyddid Watkins, associate in Faegre Baker Daniels’ product liability practice, has been awarded the 2016 Excellence in Diversity Award from the Ramsey County Bar Association.
Watkins was recognized for his extensive work to increase the diversity of teachers in Minnesota classrooms in an effort to narrow the state’s educational achievement gaps. Watkins has represented dozens of well-qualified teachers dedicated to working in underfunded schools who have been denied teaching licenses by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. From 2012-15, he and Nathan Sellers, an attorney with Fabyanske, Westra, Hart & Thomson and RCBA award co-recipient, helped approximately 50 teachers obtain full, standard Minnesota teaching licenses.
Beyond helping teachers on a case-by-case basis, Watkins and Sellers began trying to make systemic changes in April 2015 by filing a complaint in Ramsey County on behalf of 20 teachers. The lawsuit challenged the Board of Teaching’s process for reviewing and issuing licenses, and it received significant local media coverage. In December 2015, the Ramsey County court issued an injunction requiring the Board to reinstate its licensure via portfolio program. Following the program’s re-opening, 200 teachers had begun the application process to obtain teaching licenses.
Previous Excellence in Diversity Award winners include: Justice Alan Page, former chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals Edward Toussaint, Mayor Randy Kelly, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services and the St. Paul Foundation.
See additional summary and media coverage: “Highly Publicized Pro Bono Victory Helps Put Qualified Teachers Back in Minnesota Classrooms.”