Nicole Solas was surprised to find her name on the agenda for her local school board meeting, especially as the board was considering legal action against her in response to her numerous requests for documents. public.
The Rhode Island mother-of-two began filing requests for records with the South Kingstown School District several months ago, when she learned that teachers were incorporating critical race theory and gender ideology. in the program.
But she didn’t expect the school board to talk about suing her.
“I was shocked,” Solas, 37, told the Daily Signal in a recent telephone interview. The school board, she said, “did not tell me that [the requests were] a problem.”
The South Kingstown School District, approximately 30 miles south of Providence, Rhode Island, ranked “[f]lawsuit against Nicole Solas to contest the filing of more than 160 APRA requests ”on the school board’s agenda on June 2nd.
The school board took part of the meeting to discuss Solas’ many requests under Rhode Island’s Access to Public Records Act. Solas’s requests focus on obtaining information about what the school system teaches students regarding critical race theory and gender ideology.
“More than 200 APRA applications have been filed by one person in the past few weeks alone,” Emily Cummiskey, then chair of the board, said June 2 in an official statement.
Cummiskey added that responding to Solas requests would take “over 300 hours of our district’s time” and distract from “efforts to make our schools more equitable, inclusive and empowering by eradicating any harmful practices or biases through lessons on equity and the fight against racism “.
Four days after the Daily Signal inquired about Solas’ concerns, the school district principal resigned on June 28 without responding to the request for comment.
Critical Race Theory, which has become a major concern of parents in school systems across the country, incorporates Marxist theories of the oppressor versus the oppressed. It “ultimately defines all of human history and interactions as perpetual racial conflict,” as Jarrett Stepman of the Daily Signal wrote.
Solas enrolled his oldest child in kindergarten in the South Kingstown School District in March. She then called the primary school principal to schedule a visit and ask him a few questions about the curriculum before her daughter started school in the fall.
At the end of the call, Solas asked the principal if the school, which Solas wishes to keep the name private, taught anything related to critical race theory or gender identity.
She said she was told that concepts related to critical race theory and gender ideology were incorporated into the lessons.
Teachers “don’t call children boys or girls,” Solas said, the headmaster told him. “They refrain from using gender terminology.”
Solas said the principal called it “common practice” for teachers to use gender-neutral terminology. But when she pressed the principal on the origin of this “common practice,” Solas said, the principal told her she didn’t know.
Solas also learned that a kindergarten teacher in South Kingstown “asks 5-year-olds” what could have been done differently on the first Thanksgiving “in order to build on a” reflection on history. ” the mother wrote in a recent article. for the legal insurrection.
Solas told the elementary school principal that she would email him a list of questions because she wasn’t getting the answers she was looking for over the phone.
After emailing the principal, the school administration asked Solas to submit public document requests to get the answers.
She began submitting these requests and the school district was in “constant contact” with her about costs and other aspects, Solas told the Daily Signal.
“They would answer either with an estimate, [or] sometimes they gave me documents for free, ”she said.
The school district “may charge a fee of fifteen cents ($ 0.15) per page for copies and / or fifteen dollars ($ 15.00) per hour, after the first hour, for searching and / or retrieving of documents, ”according to the South Kingstown Public Schools website.
But she was not made aware of an issue with the number of requests until she learned that the school board, officially called the South Kingstown School Board, was considering taking legal action against her, Solas said.
“You told me to submit public registration requests to answer my questions,” Solas told school board members, according to a recording of the June 2 meeting. “I did as you told me, and now you’re holding a public meeting to discuss my lawsuit for doing what you told me to do.” This meeting was meant to publicly humiliate me, and it didn’t work.
The school board meeting “seemed to be my show trial,” Solas told the Daily Signal.
During the meeting, her requests for public documents were displayed on a large screen and categorized by type, she said.
“I felt like they were looking at exhibits to file evidence against me,” she said.
The school board ultimately voted unanimously not to sue Solas, agreeing to seek mediation first.
Cummiskey resigned six days later as chair of the South Kingstown School Committee before announcing her resignation from the board at a meeting on June 22.
In an impassioned speech, Cummiskey said she hopes everyone in South Kingstown “realizes the damage that is done every day and that you all choose not to try to come together.”
“We’re in a dangerous place… and if everyone doesn’t take a deep breath, we’re going to be in real trouble,” she said.
Christie Fish, who was vice-chair of the board, stepped down from that post after the June 2 meeting, but remains a member of the board.
Neither the South Kingstown School Board nor the school district superintendent Linda Savastano responded to the Daily Signal’s email request on June 24 to comment on specific issues raised by Solas.
Without specifying the reasons, Savastano announced her resignation as superintendent on June 28, four days after the Daily Signal investigation. In a written statement, she said in part: “I know this is the best decision for everyone involved.”
The school board unanimously approved a “separation agreement” with the superintendent after just under two years, reported The Independent, a local newspaper.
Earlier in June, Solas said she paid the school system $ 300 for various information, including emails from a school board member. She said she only received part of the information requested, but what the school sent was unnecessary.
“I received completely redacted emails,” Solas told Daily Signal in an email Friday. “Everything is blacked out, with the exception of some spam and advertisements. The school even removed the dates from the emails, so I can’t tell if these emails are within the period I requested.
After the June 2 meeting, the school board contacted their lawyer and “asked me to send them a priority list of which [documents covered by the Access to Public Records Act] I wanted first, ”Solas told the Daily Signal in a June 24 email.
“In an effort to be reasonable,” she said, “I asked them to send me an APRA priority list instead with deadlines they can handle.”
The school board responded by requesting a 60-day extension to respond to its pending case requests, Solas said. She rejected the offer, she said, because she considered it “not an offer at all.”
The school board “defamed me at a public meeting on June 2, then later asked that I wait another 60 days for them to respond to my APRA requests,” Solas told the Daily Signal. add:
They made no offer to waive the fees associated with [my] by purchasing the information 60 days late, and they gave me no priority list from APRA. There was nothing in this offer for me after they treated me so badly.
This is an offer of non-compliance, and it was so unreasonable that I said I was not interested in continuing negotiations on my civil right to access public information after treatment as well. deplorable.
In early July, Solas said, she paid for an additional $ 600 for information after receiving a $ 1,000 donation from an anonymous source.
Parents should get involved and find out what their children are being taught, Solas said, because “the risk of retaliation is worth your children.”
“People who work in schools are just ordinary people like us, and we shouldn’t have to be afraid of them,” she said.
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