Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit today against Springfield Public Schools for failing to properly respond to a public records request for documents related to critical race theory, a subject the district has acknowledged it teaches but for which it appears reluctant to provide documentation. The district’s response to the request is a violation of the Sunshine Law, according to the suit.
“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 points out numerous examples where the school district has publicly acknowledged instructing teachers and staff on critical race theory and providing “equity training” to students:
In a December 2020 report, Springfield Public Schools reported that it had required the Board of Education, Senior Leadership Team…, and Equity Champions (internal staff …) to participate in a one-day training from the Facing Racism Institute… 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…’.
In another example, teachers and staff were instructed to identify themselves on an “oppression matrix” chart, which include such categories as “white people,” “male assigned at birth,” and “protestants,” listed under “privileged social groups.”
The Sunshine Law request came after the School Board limited public comments at meetings and the district said they would not release training materials to the public.
The school district responded to the request with a fee estimate requiring an initial deposit of $37,000—a deposit for items and services other than copies, a violation of the Sunshine Law. Further, the district did not estimate the hourly rates for employees to do the work required to fulfill the request, as required by law.
The lawsuit also points out discrepancies between the Springfield Public Schools’ replies to the Sunshine Law request from the Attorney General’s Office and other similar requests. In these responses, the district gave varying research rates and document numbers.