Last edited 1:20 p.m., Nov. 16, 2021
Springfield Public Schools is facing a lawsuit from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office.
The attorney general's suit, filed today, alleges Sunshine Law violations after Schmitt's office requested public records from SPS related to critical race theory training at the district, according to a news release.
“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,” Schmitt said in the release. “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."
The lawsuit alleges SPS asked for an initial deposit of $37,000 in response to the Sunshine Law request by Schmitt's office. The district allegedly failed to provide hourly rates for the research it would take to fulfill the request, according to the lawsuit.
The 13-count lawsuit seeks $1,000 in civil penalties for any knowing violation of the Sunshine Law, which regulates transparency in government agencies, according to the release.
Schmitt's office indicates in the lawsuit that SPS has instructed teachers and staff on critical race theory and that they were ordered to participate in a one-day training session from Missouri State University’s Facing Racism Institute. The lawsuit alleges at another meeting, teachers and staff were required to consult a document referred to as an oppression matrix designed to identify if they're part of a privileged social group.
SPS Chief Communications Officer Stephen Hall provided a statement on behalf of the district.
"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 statement reads. "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 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May the all-items inflation index surged 8.6% over the past year, the highest increase since 1981.