As the Philadelphia schools struggled to address a violence crisis in the fall of 2010, then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman ordered that an emergency $7.5 million security-camera contract be awarded to an African American-owned firm that wasn't approved for such jobs. Ackerman - who quit the district in 2011 and died in 2013 - explained at one point that she was tired of "white boys" getting all the district's lucrative work, according to court documents. Now, six years later, the district's tireless but pointless defense of her mistake is threatening to become as expensive as the contract itself.

The School District faces more than $6 million in legal fees, damages, and settlement costs stemming from the wayward contract and efforts to punish employees suspected of exposing it to the Inquirer. With two more complaints pending and the district's lawyers attempting to retry the one they just lost, that astonishing figure is likely to grow.

Lawyers for Security & Data Technologies (SDT), the company that lost the camera contract after beginning preliminary work, recently asked that the district be required to cover its $1.3 million legal bill. That would be on top of the $2.3 million in damages a jury awarded the firm last month following a weeklong trial.

Moreover, the Center City firm that lost the case, Tucker Law Group, had cost the School District $1.6 million as of March. The district also paid another firm, Pepper Hamilton, more than $300,000 for work stemming from the camera contract.

In addition, the School Reform Commission agreed earlier this year to a $725,000 settlement of its long, losing legal battle with Francis X. Dougherty, a former administrator who was fired for speaking to reporters about the contract. A school police commander and a former procurement official have also sued the district over retaliatory measures taken in the wake of the Inquirer's reports.

The district's lengthening list of legal defeats doesn't appear to have discouraged the Tucker firm, which indicated last week that it would seek a new trial in the SDT case. Given the benefits for its bottom line - if not its win-loss record - the firm's persistence is understandable.

What's not understandable is the failure of the SRC and schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. to question the district's costly, counterproductive legal strategy.

While diversity in contracting is a worthy goal, Ackerman clearly pursued it in an arbitrary and inappropriate manner. Her subsequent hunt for the employees who dared blow the whistle was even less defensible. The impoverished Philadelphia schools have already thrown too much good money after those bad decisions.