Missouri’s Attorney General sues Springfield Public Schools over Sunshine Law violations concerning Critical Race Theory request; SPS responds

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 10:30 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools for Sunshine Law violations after his office requested public records from the school district relating to critical race theory and antiracism teaching in Springfield Public Schools.

The lawsuit alleges, “Springfield Public Schools violated the 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. The attorney general argues 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. 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 Missouri Attorney General’s Office, and ordering $1,000 in civil penalties for any knowing violation under the Sunshine Law. In response, Springfield Public Schools provided a fee estimate that demanded an initial deposit of $37,000.

“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 training and applying social justice scorecards to math and other core curriculum,” said Attorney General Schmitt.

The lawsuit alleges Springfield Public Schools has publicly acknowledged it is instructing teachers and staff on critical race theory, stating, “In a December 2020 report, Springfield Public Schools reported 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.”

Springfield Public Schools released a statement to KY3 News, saying they are disappointed the attorney general filed this lawsuit.

Statement from Springfield Public Schools

“SPS is disappointed by the Attorney General’s decision to use the power of his office to attack public education. This is an attempt to intimidate SPS, and while it will not prevail, it will unfortunately require considerable taxpayer resources to defend. The district has been in ongoing communication with the Attorney General’s office regarding his requests for information. The Attorney General’s request is similar to the one most recently drafted by Rep. Fishel. In both circumstances, the requests are extraordinarily broad in scope and have the potential to divert hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of district staff time to search and review thousands of pages of documents. The original request includes all staff and student email communications sent over multiple years. SPS is accountable to taxpayers and to the educational needs of our 24,000 students. As a result, SPS should and will seek appropriate reimbursement. In the meantime, any deliberate misrepresentation of the district’s work by elected officials must end. These efforts represent a loud, divisive, and misguided distraction. SPS has been very clear: Critical Race Theory is not being taught in our classrooms. Our work is focused on equity, not CRT. SPS is being intentional in the educational experiences we provide all of our students. Ensuring our district is equitable and inclusive is our ethical responsibility to make SPS safe for all students and staff. Any deliberate attempt to misrepresent this important work, especially for political purposes, is shameful indeed.”

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

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