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Springfield Public Schools district leaders, lawyer react to recent lawsuit over equity training

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 10:51 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Two Springfield Public Schools employees have filed a lawsuit against the district over mandatory equity training.

Brooke Henderson and Jennifer Lumley, two current employees, claim Springfield Public Schools district took away their first amendment rights through mandatory training.

A new federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Lumley and Henderson, claims that the training is an unconstitutional condition of employment. They claim they were forced to reveal personal information and told educators should vote for socialist politicians.

Kimberly Hermann is the lawyer representing Lumley and Henderson as general counsel for Southeastern Legal Foundation. She said what they found from the district was unconstitutional.

“Many of these ideas and most of this curriculum should not be in the classroom, because it’s unconstitutional,” said Hermann. “When it’s something that you don’t believe in, politics should not be in the classroom.”

The lawsuit names the district, its school board, and four district leaders, including new superintendent Grenita Lathan.

The lawsuit also states the training included charts on oppression and white supremacy that R-12 staff members had to discuss.

Springfield Public Schools R-12 communications director, Stephen Hall, said the lawsuit a distraction.

“This is very unfortunate because what this amounts to is a serious distraction,” said Hall. It’s also consuming resources and time that are better served with children.”

In response to the statement from Hall, Hermann said the district’s training was at fault.

“What’s a distraction is when they’re replacing traditional education in the classroom with this so called equity and anti-racist training,” said Hermann. “They’re teaching them to look, first and foremost, as we said, at the color of their skin, and at the color of their friend’s skin, not to look at the inside of the person.”

Hall said the training is to serve every student, no matter their background.

“This is a part of a much larger misinformation campaign, about the work around equity and what the district is doing,” said Hall.

He also said teaching equity helps underrepresented students.

“So we have an ethical responsibility to do everything we can to close those gaps by making our classrooms more inclusive and more welcoming to each and every student,” said Hall. “That is what our work is all about.”

Hermann said both Henderson and Lumley want this change for this district and across the nation.

“They’re looking for the court to declare this training unconstitutional, and to prevent Springfield Public Schools from continuing with this type of training,” said Hermann. “When the federal court declares this unconstitutional, as we believe it will, that will have a ripple effect throughout the country.”

Henderson has worked for the district for 12 years, helping students with disabilities. Lumley worked with the district for two years as records secretary for the special services department.

Springfield Public Schools released this statement to KY3 regarding the lawsuit Thursday:

“The legal action filed by Ms. Henderson and Ms. Lumley is a serious distraction that consumes time and resources better focused on children. This effort is part of a misinformation campaign designed to undermine our district’s pursuit of equity for all. SPS is prepared to vigorously defend our efforts to honor and respect the identities and lived experiences of all students and staff. We are confident that the court will ultimately determine the lawsuit is frivolous and without merit.”

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