Nekima Levy-Pounds, who as president of the Minneapolis NAACP has been active in several high-profile causes, has joined the legal team challenging the state's teacher tenure laws.
She will serve as co-counsel representing four mothers in a lawsuit that claims the laws protect teachers who are ineffective and in turn deprive children of a high-quality education.
In a statement, Levy-Pounds said "parents are the best advocates to stand up against a public education system that is failing Minnesota children, especially our children of color."
The suit against the state was filed in April and is backed by education reform groups including Partnership for Educational Justice, which was founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown.
Levy-Pounds also is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, and as such, has insights into the "positive impact a great teacher can have on her students," said Ralia Polechronis, executive director of Partnership for Educational Justice.
The Minnesota case is the third of its kind in the country and challenges laws that grant layoff protection to teachers after three years on the job, require a lengthy procedure to fire them and set up a system where teachers with less seniority are fired first regardless of their performance.
In April, Brenda Cassellius, the state's education commissioner, defended the state laws, saying they not only provide teachers with due process but also, "when followed, provide school administrators and school boards with the authority to remove teachers."
The state attorney general's office filed notice in Ramsey County District Court last week that it will seek dismissal of the case on jurisdictional and other grounds.