The Rhode Island chapter of the nation’s largest teachers’ union is suing to protect members’ “individual privacy rights” against a woman who has filed over 200 separate public records requests about the integration of Critical Race Theory in her local school district.
The complaint was filed Monday by the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) and NEA South Kingstown (NEASK) in Rhode Island Superior Court, according to documents obtained by conservative news site Legal Insurrection.
The lawsuit names six South Kingstown school committee members and Nicole Solas, a 38-year-old mother whose daughter attends kindergarten. It seeks to prevent the school district from providing Solas with what she has requested through the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA), alleging that many of those records contain NEA members’ “private” information unrelated to official business.
“Although public policy typically weighs in favor of disclosure when records are public, these principals are not without legal limits,” the complaint reads. “The APRA system is not an alternative to the civil discovery process and is not to be used for abusive purposes or a fishing expedition.”
Solas said she began filing APRA requests after school district officials appeared to be reluctant to clarify her concerns about how topics such as race, gender, and U.S. history were being taught in schools.
“I 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,'” Solas wrote in an op-ed published on Legal Insurrection. “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 wrote that the school district complied with her initial APRA request, but wanted to charge her $9,570 for gathering the information. The price tag dropped to $79.50 after she submitted numerous “specific and narrow” requests and only asked for digital copies.
A list of Solas’ completed and pending requests attached to the complaint include ones such as “All emails to or from [former superintendent] Linda Savastano containing the word ‘race,'” “All emails to or from Linda Savastano containing the word ‘whiteness,'” and “All lesson plans in which the concept of ‘whiteness’ as a social construct is discussed, at all grade levels.”
In June, the South Kingston school committee considered whether to sue Solas because of all the public record requests, which they claimed to be associated with an unspecified “racist group” and a waste of their time.
“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,” South Kingstown School Committee chairwoman Emily Cummiskey said in a June 2 statement.
“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.”