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Missouri Attorney General Files Suit Against Springfield Public Schools for Sunshine Law Violations After Requesting Documents on Critical Race Theory in Schools

Nov 16, 2021, 10:09 AM by AG Schmitt
Today, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools for Sunshine Law violations after the Attorney General’s Office requested public records from the school district relating to critical race theory and antiracism teaching in Springfield Public Schools.
 “Parents have every right to know exactly what is being taught to their children, especially when public school systems are implementing components of critical race theory and so-called ‘antiracism’ teachings in teacher trainings and applying social justice scorecards to math and other core curriculum,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Springfield Public Schools has skirted our efforts to demand answers and transparency for parents who send their kids to Springfield Public Schools by demanding exorbitant fees for public records. Now, we’re taking Springfield Public Schools to court for those public records. I will always fight for parents’ rights to know exactly what schools are teaching their children.”
 
The lawsuit alleges that Springfield Public Schools has publicly acknowledged that they are instructing teachers and staff on critical race theory, stating, “In a December 2020 report, Springfield Public Schools reported that it had required the Board of Education, Senior Leadership Team (consisting of building principals, department directors, assistant directors, and coordinators), and Equity Champions (internal staff at school buildings who are also tasked with leading equity efforts and initiatives) to participate in a one-day training from the Facing Racism Institute as part of the 2019 Fall Leadership Series… According to Springfield Public Schools, one of the Facing Racism Institute’s training objectives is to ‘introduce the components of critical race theory from educational research with applications to the district, . . .’”
 
Further, the lawsuit alleges that at another training, teachers and staff were required to consult an “oppression matrix” and identify where they fall on the matrix. According to the matrix, “privileged social groups” include “white people,” “male assigned at birth,” and “protestants.” Another figure presented to staff stated that “covert white supremacy” could be “education funding from property tax,” and “all lives matter.” Yet another figure that was presented to Springfield Public Schools staff at a different training stated that “Make America Great Again,” “police murdering POC [People of Color],” and “celebration of Columbus Day” are examples of covert white supremacy.
 
The lawsuit continues, “The Springfield Public Schools’ Chief Equity and Diversity Officer has claimed that the need for social justice in K-12 education today equals or exceeds the need during times of segregation: ‘In 2020, with four years of an administration that has focused on school choice, the restriction of diversity training for state and or governmental entities like schools and threatening funding of schools who wish to expand their curriculum to become culturally consciousness [sic] and other dangerous tactics to stop inclusive learning for students, the role of social justice in K‒12 public education is just as important as it was during segregation if not more.’”
 
Upon questioning by the Attorney General’s Office, Springfield Public Schools admitted that they’ve provided equity training to students in the GO CAPS program for the past three school years. In May of 2021, Springfield Public Schools reported that it had formed a “Culturally Relevant Curriculum Review” and adopted a Culturally Responsible Scorecard to implement a social justice evaluation of core curriculum, including math.
 
After the Springfield Public Schools School Board limited public comments and Springfield Public Schools announced that they would not release training materials to the public, the Attorney General’s Office filed a Sunshine Law request on behalf of concerned parents to find out exactly how frequently critical race theory and antiracism materials and teachings were supplied or taught to students.
 
In response, Springfield Public Schools provided a fee estimate that demanded an initial deposit of $37,000. The lawsuit alleges, “Springfield Public Schools violated § 610.026.2 [the Sunshine Law] by demanding a deposit for items or services other than copies as a precondition to making public records available to the Attorney General’s Office.”
 
In their cost estimate, Springfield Public Schools also failed to provide hourly rates for “employees of the body that result in the lowest amount of charges for search, research, and duplication time” as required by law.
 
Further, the lawsuit notes several discrepancies in Springfield Public Schools’ responses to the Sunshine Law request sent by the Attorney General’s Office and similar Sunshine Law requests sent in by State Representative Craig Fishel and the Show Me Institute, including promising different search rates and differing numbers of responsive documents.
 
The lawsuit incorporates 13 counts, and asks the Court to issue a judgment declaring the Springfield Public Schools violated the Sunshine Law, ordering the Springfield Public Schools to release all responsive records to the Attorney General’s Office, and ordering $1,000 in civil penalties for any knowing violation under the Sunshine Law.
 
The full petition can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2021-11-16-springfield-petition.pdf?sfvrsn=18ef8d17_2
 
All of the exhibits in the case can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/springfield-exhibits.pdf?sfvrsn=b7227785_2
 
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