School district backs off threat to sue mother who filed 200 requests for info on critical race theory, gender curriculum

Board members of a Rhode Island school district have dismissed an earlier threat to sue a mother who filed some 200 requests for records and information about critical race theory and gender curriculum, according to multiple reports.

“More than 200 APRA requests have been filed by a single individual in just the last few weeks alone—an individual who has no children in our School District—demanding more than 300 hours of our District’s time to these records requests, time that should be dedicated to keeping our schools running successfully,” committee Chairwoman Emily Cummiskey added in a now-deleted Facebook post June 2.

“This issue is a much larger one—one that involves a disturbing attempt by a nationally organized, racist group to create chaos and intimidate our district in recent weeks as we discuss bringing equity and anti-racism curriculum to our schools,” Cummiskey said. “This is their MO nation-wide, and I anticipate other districts in our state will soon experience the same unfortunate influx we have.”

But in the end, the South Kingstown School Committee voted unanimously to first engage in mediation with parent Nicole Solas instead of taking legal action over her multitude of information and records requests.

“This is more about politics,” board member Sara Markey told the Providence Journal. “A lawsuit is not the answer. I don’t want to have to tell my child that I caved to pressure. That’s what filing a suit would do.”

In a column posted at Legal Insurrection on June 1, Solas explained that she has a child enrolled in kindergarten at the school and she 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,'” Solas continued. “I asked why kids could not be called ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ and was told it was ‘common practice.'”

She went on to say that she wasn’t getting sufficient answers and indeed, the more questions she asked, the fewer responses she received, including requests to tour the school and see what curriculum is being taught to her child and others.

After those and other requests went unfulfilled or, often, unanswered, Solas said she was told by school officials to file information requests under the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) through the district’s website.

“After thirty days, I received an incomplete curriculum and filed an APRA complaint with the Attorney General,” she wrote. “By contrast, curriculum for two charters [sic] schools in South Kingstown (Kingston Hill Academy and The Compass School) is available on their websites. I scheduled a tour of a private school in five minutes. Why was it so hard to get a tour and see the curriculum in my own public school district?”

School district officials said that the sheer volume of requests for information from Solas was a lot to deal with at first.

“It was not the best beginning of a relationship,” Schools Supt. Linda Savastano told the Providence Journal, adding that district officials were “overwhelmed.”

“I own that. It overwhelmed us. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better in the future,” she added.

Critical race theory has become highly controversial because it teaches that despite hundreds of years of history and civil rights progress, the U.S. remains an inherently racist country premised on “white supremacy.” Critics have also said its fundamental ideology is derived from traditional Marxist class warfare with an emphasis on so-called “equity” as well as dismantling institutions deemed irredeemably racist.

Parents around the country are increasingly pushing back on CRT as well as ‘trans’ curriculum that deemphasizes traditional male-female genders.

As for Solas, 38, not only did she have an issue with the lack of response to her records requests, but she also disputed the $9,570 cost estimate the school sent her.

“When I requested the emails of a school committee member the estimate of what they would charge me came back as $9,570. Who can afford that?” she wrote, going on to cite the APRA, which sets costs for records production at $15 per hour, 15 cents per copy, and no charge for the first hour.

“I amended my request to narrow the scope of requested emails to six months and requested digital copies instead of hard copies. That $9,570 estimate dropped to $79.50,” she added.

Jon Dougherty

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