“Parents Will Prevail” – Rhode Island Mom Nicole Solas Reacts To Resignation of Pro-Critical Race School Board Member Who Smeared Her
South Kingstown (RI) School Committee Chair Emily Cummiskey resigns. Solas: “I am still owed a public apology and retraction but Cummiskey’s resignation sends a new message: parents will prevail. Retaliation against parents seeking information about their child’s education will backfire…”
The case of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, mom Nicole Solas is turning into a nationwide example of how a mother seeking information about Critical Race and Gender teaching in elementary school can make a difference.
Solas, whose daughter is enrolled to start kindergarten next fall, went public in a June 1, 2021, op-ed at Legal Insurrection about South Kingstown School Committee threats to sue her for filing too many public records requests:
I am a mother in the South Kingstown School District in Rhode Island investigating through public records requests how critical race and gender theories are integrated into lessons, school policies, and contracts. Now the School Committee is considering suing me to stop me….
Although I am shocked that a government body would use the threat of litigation to publicly bully, harass, and intimidate a mother who was advocating for her child’s education, I am not afraid. And I will not stop asking questions.
This shameful retaliation against a parent who demand transparency from public schools will not be tolerated. Every parent needs to keep asking questions. Every parent needs to submit more public records requests when they do not receive answers to their questions from school leaders. Hold your elected representatives accountable and do not allow them to prevent you from protecting and advocating for your children.
If the school system starts to bully you because you are asking too many questions, then you’re winning. Don’t give up.
After national publicity and uproar, the School Committee backed off the threat to sue, directing its attorney to seek “mediation” of the dispute, but not before it viciously smeared Solas as connected to an unnamed “nationally-organized, racist group” in public statements by Committee Chair Emily Cummisky in a Facebook post (archive) and to the Providence Journal:
South Kingstown School Committee Chairwoman Emily Cummiskey described the possible suit Wednesday as a “potential injunction” to blunt “a nationally-organized, racist group [attempting] to create chaos and intimidate our district. …This is their MO nation-wide and I anticipate other districts in our state will soon experience the same unfortunate influx we have.”
Cummiskey did not name the group.
At a public forum on June 2, 2021, Cummiskey named the group in question as Parents Defending Education. [Note – as we have written multiple times before, we know PDE and two of their top officials, Nicole Neily and Asra Nomani, have appeared at Legal Insurrection Foundation webinars. To term PDE “racist” is outrageous.] Solas has publicly denied that PDE had anything to do with the requests in issue with South Kingstown.
Solas did not back down and spoke out in the public forum.
Solas called on Cummiskey to resign:
At a public forum on June 8, 2021, Cummiskey clamed an (unnamed) public relations firm working with the School Committee’s lawyers prepared the statements she gave about Solas and PDE:
And at this time I would like to let my fellow committee members know that I am going to be resigning as the chair. I would also like to just offer that, just a few points of clarity because it feels something the last person could have spoken for a couple more minutes. It feels like this agenda item was put in very quickly after last Wednesday’s meeting, and, I wanted to clarify what happened in the events that led up to last Wednesday’s meeting. I was approached by Fox News, as I believe we all were, requesting a statement and several od, two of my fellow school committee members reached out, encouraging me to make a statement, as the chair, I would be responsible for, the person that made a statement for the, made a statement in reaction to the Fox News story.
I said that I was not comfortable doing so unless I reached out and consulted with our legal team. It was a time-sensitive manner as there was a deadline and Aubrey [legal counsel] worked tirelessly along with a PR firm that she obtained to create a statement to this unprecedented situation. The PR firm delivered me three statements, one for social media, one for Fox News, and one to read at last Wednesday’s meeting. I’m not a media specialist, I’m not a PR specialist and I’m not an attorney. So what I did is I followed the advice of the PR firm that our legal team obtained.
I am a masters prepared educator. I believe to my core that every single person has potential. I believe in equity, I believe in anti-racism. So I made those statements that the PR firm gave to me to make. They encouraged me not to follow up, not to respond. And I followed that advice. I take responsibility for okaying an agenda last Wednesday that was inflammatory. I don’t believe that any individual was trying to create more chaos.
The Legal Insurrection Foundation has served public records requests, among other things, for documents regarding Cummiskey’s statements and the approval process.
Cummiskey initially stepped down as Chair of the School Committee, but not from the Committee itself.
There has been other fallout from the attacks on Solas. An investigation by the Legal Insurrection Foundation has uncovered documents reflecting hostility at the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association and Rhode Island Association of School Committees “right wing” parents and groups, seemingly reflecting conservatives’ often-voiced concerns that the educational bureaucracy is hostile. The RISSA has been working with “our union friends” and friendly legislators to try to amend the public records laws:
- RI School Superintendents Group: “We all know many of our citizens live in a separate news reality with Fox, Newsmax and their ilk”
- CRT Battlefront: Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Plan To Limit Public Records Requests Runs Into Possible ACLU Roadblock
Another School Committee meeting was held on June 22, 2021. At that meeting, the Committee announced that Solas was refusing to “mediate” her requests with the Committee’s lawyers. That request for mediation from the Committee was made, under threat of possible lawsuit, to pressure Solas to withdraw or limit some of her public records requests. According to the Committee’s statements, Solas refused to back off, so the Committee announced that its lawyers would continue to work through the requests and respond in compliance with state law.
At the very end of the meeting, and in an item not on the agenda, Cummiskey announced that she was resigning entirely from the School Committee (as Solas had demanded). In a fiery statement, Cummiskey portrayed herself and the school system as victims, and showed no contrition for smearing Solas and PDE as racists. Ironically, Cummiskey condemned social media for poisoning the atmosphere without addressing her own incendiary public statements:
Before we move to adjournment, I did have a couple of things that I wanted to say. In 2017, as a master prepared educator, a parent of four kids in district and a frequent volunteer in every one of my kids’ classes, in a district that I graduated from when it was in its heyday. I saw that we needed major change in South Kingstown schools. I decided to step up for an open seat on the school committee because I thought I could help bring the change that our students, our teachers, and our entire community so desperately needed. I was at that time unanimously appointed by the town council. In 2018, I ran for a seat and I was elected. Since 2017, I have reached out to the people who I have seen as adversarial to try to find common ground. I’ve spent hours upon hours with people that I sought out and sat with as a liberal Democrat, the most conservative people that I could find so that I could hear a different point of view, because I didn’t believe that whether you were a Democrat or Republican or who you voted for in a national presidential election, should really have any impact on our ability as community members in small South Kingstown to take care of 2,800 students.
I thought that we could work together. I listened and I believed that although we may not all politically align, that we could work together to find a way forward that was putting our students first. However, I made an assumption. I made an assumption that we all held similar ideals of doing what is best for our kids. I want to thank our teachers. I want to thank our staff. I want to thank our kids for working really, really hard. I want to thank my husband and my own kids and my family for understanding my desire to make South Kingstown school as a place for all students to succeed. And believing in a vision, one that [Superintendent] Linda Savastano and I both share to make decisions that put kids first.
You only need two things for, for successful learning to take place. You need students and you need teachers. Thank you to our teachers. Students, I believe to the depths of my soul, that every single one of you have potential, please be brave and continue to be creative and diligent. Sometimes being brave means knowing when it is time to move in a different direction. I am really sad that after being raised in this town and attending South Kingstown schools from Stepping Stone upstairs with Mrs. Haas to graduating from S K H S in 1998, that it feels right when we were on the brink of real change, change that would bring our district back to the top.
Bullies, elitists, slander, lies, trial by social media. They’re all prevailing.
Tonight. I’m officially resigning from the school committee. Thank you to those of you in this town, a town that I truly love, for those of you that have been beyond supportive. I truly hope that Democrats, Republicans, people that are unaffiliated, parents, kids, grandparents, can realize the damage that’s being done every single day, that you all choose not to try to come together. We are in a dangerous place. We’re a little microcosm of what has happened on a national level. This is not South Kingstown. And if everybody doesn’t take a deep frigging breath, we’re going to be in real trouble. I implore everyone to take a step back and try to come together, do it for our kids.
Solas has provided this statement for the media about what happened:
Emily Cummiskey’s resignation from school committee is a victory for parents who advocate for their children’s education and refuse to be bullied, intimidated, and smeared into silence. I am still owed a public apology and retraction but Cummiskey’s resignation sends a new message: parents will prevail. Retaliation against parents seeking information about their child’s education will backfire against school board members who risk losing their own elected offices and reputations. School boards who try to make examples out of parents will only make examples out of themselves. I hope this empowers parents and taxpayers to submit public record requests to hold their elected representatives accountable to the community they serve.
This story is not over. In the next couple of weeks we may find out if the Superintendents Association succeeds in watering down the public records laws. Legal Insurrection Foundation also continues its investigation.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.