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Missouri AG files lawsuit against SPS over public records request on antiracism

School pencils
Pixabay
/
Used with permission

The Missouri Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools. The lawsuit alleges the school district violated the state’s Sunshine Law in responding to public records requests about how it addresses race and racism in schools.

According to Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office, the AG filed a Sunshine Law request on behalf of concerned parents, seeking information on antiracism materials. The lawsuit alleges that the school district failed to meet a records request, in part, because its fee estimate for supplying the documents was “exorbitant” and did not provide enough details.

The lawsuit, which includes 13 counts, asks the Greene County Circuit Court to find Springfield Public Schools in violation of the Sunshine Law, order the district to release all of the requested records, and consider a fine.

In response to the lawsuit, SPS issued a statement through its spokesman, Stephen Hall, saying that the lawsuit was “an attempt to intimidate” and will require considerable taxpayer resources to defend. Hall said the records request is extraordinarily broad in scope, with “the potential to divert hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of district staff time to search and review thousands of pages of documents.”

Hall also clarified that Critical Race Theory is not taught in the district’s classrooms, where the focus instead is on equity.

You can see the lawsuit paperwork by clicking here.

And the complete statement from SPS spokesman Stephen Hall is below:

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.

As News Director, Jennifer oversees news gathering and production for KSMU-Ozarks Public Radio; in her role as Content Coordinator, she makes sure all programs on KSMU, including those produced locally, nationally, and internationally, flow seamlessly over the air. She trains the student reporters and announcers and hosts the monthly program Engaging the Community. Follow her on Twitter @jennwritesmoore.