The Rhode Island chapter of the National Education Association has filed a lawsuit against the South Kingstown School Committee and a parent in order to block the release of records concerning Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender teaching in the school district, Legal Insurrection reported Wednesday.
The teachers’ union now claims, in the complaint filed in Superior Court, that the teaching records are “private” and their release as “public interest” records must be “balanced” against the rights of teachers.
The complaint states the union seeks to:
(a) prohibit the disclosure of non-public records and/or
(b) for those requests that call for personally identifiable and other personnel-related information about public school teachers, that no records be disclosed until the Court employs a balancing test that properly assesses the public interest in the records at issue measured against the teachers’ individual privacy rights.
South Kingstown mother Nicole Solas, whose child is enrolled in kindergarten, garnered national attention when Legal Insurrection first published her story in June about her attempts to obtain school records regarding the teaching of Critical Race and Gender theories in the school district.
Solas wrote in June:
I became concerned that Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender theory were integrated into lessons when an elementary school principal told me that teachers don’t refer to students as “boys” and “girls.” Additionally, I was told a kindergarten teacher asks five-year-olds, “what could have been done differently on the first Thanksgiving” in order to build upon a “line of thinking about history.” I asked why kids could not be called “boys” and “girls” and was told it was “common practice.” I asked for clarification on the “line of thinking” about history but got no answers. The more questions I asked, the less answers I received.
Solas said when she asked for a tour of the elementary school, the Superintendent agreed, but never provided her with a date and time despite follow-up emails and phone calls. After a month went by, the Superintendent, she said, told her they were no longer offering tours due to COVID restrictions.
“Yet the Superintendent offered tours of other schools to campaign for a school bond,” she noted.
When Solas asked numerous officials to view the elementary school curriculum, the Director of Curriculum said she was unavailable, despite Solas stating her schedule was open at any day and time.
Ultimately, a school board member directed her to file an Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request on the school district’s website to obtain the curriculum.
“After thirty days, I received an incomplete curriculum and filed an APRA complaint with the Attorney General,” Solas reported, adding that she then began filing other APRA requests for public documents about CRT, gender theory, and other issues.
In May, the school committee included on its agenda an item for discussion regarding “filing litigation against Nicole Solas to challenge the filing of over 160 APRA requests.”
The school committee ultimately decided against suing Solas, but directed its counsel, instead, to seek mediation to try to resolve the dispute with the parent.
Now, however, the teachers’ union’s lawsuit against both the school committee and Solas seeks to prevent the district from handing over the information she has requested.
Further information about Solas’s quest to learn more about CRT and gender theory curriculum in her child’s school can be found at Legal Insurrection.
The case is National Education Association of Rhode Island vs. South Kingstown School Committee, No. PC-2021-05116, in Superior Court of Bristol County.