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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A state appeals court has affirmed a lower court ruling that thousands of New Orleans teachers fired after Hurricane Katrina were denied the constitutional right of due process.

A panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal also adjusted the lower court's damage award, ordering the New Orleans school board to pay two years of back pay and benefits and requiring the state to pay an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain requirements.

A state judge had awarded more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case.

In testimony before the appeal court, a board attorney said upholding the initial ruling would mean as many as 7,500 other teachers and staff would be in line to receive nearly $1.5 billion in damage payments.

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