Update: Smear of Mom Nicole Solas Was Prepared By Public Relations Firm Hired By South Kingstown (RI) School Committee
Emily Cummiskey steps down as Chair of School Committee, blames others for smear of Nicole: “The PR firm delivered me three statements, one for social media, one for Fox news, and one to read at last Wednesday’s meeting.”
The aggressiveness with which the South Kingstown (Rhode Island) School Committee went after local mom Nicole Solas, for filing a series of public records requests regarding Critical Race and Gender activities in the school system, has never made sense. We now have a partial answer – the smear of Nicole in public statements by the School Committee Chair was drafted by a Public Relations firm.
The story broke nationally when Nicole wrote about a school board threat to sue her in a post at Legal Insurrection, I’m A Mom Seeking Records Of Critical Race and Gender Curriculum, Now The School Committee May Sue To Stop Me.
Our additional posts covered the developing story, which has received widespread national attention:
- South Kingstown (RI) School Committee Votes NOT To Sue Mom Nicole Solas Who Sought CRT Records
- South Kingstown Mom Nicole Solas: “They smear people who ask them questions, who disagree with them”
As the School Committee members openly discussed at the meeting on June 2, 2021, there never was an attempt to resolve the issue or work with Nicole prior to item being placed on the School Committee public agenda to discuss suing Nicole. The excuse that the district faced potentially millions of dollars of fines if they missed a deadline to respond to the public records requests was nonsense. As someone who has filed many public records requests over my career, there almost always is a negotiation and accommodation where the agency cannot comply because of personnel or other limitations.
From the get-go I felt something else was going on here. That Nicole was being singled out and made an example of for some other reason.
My suspicions were further heightened when, in response to Nicole going public with the lawsuit threat, School Committee Chair Emily Cummiskey issued very vicious attacks on Nicole on Facebook, to the local media, and then at the June 2, 2021, public forum, accusing Nicole of being associated with a national racist group, which Cummiskey identified at the public meeting as Parents Defending Education (PDE). The accusation that PDE is “racist” is outrageously false, as I’ve previously explained, and there is no evidence that PDE was behind Nicole’s requests.
The accusation that Nicole was working with a national “racist” organization has circulated even in mainstream local media without pushback from reporters.
The “racist” accusation was the focus of Nicole’s appearance on Tucker Carlson:
Why was PDE dragged into it not only by Cummiskey, but also by the lobbyist for the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association (RISSA) in a statement to the Providence Journal? That narrative is being pushed in local media, where there is fearmongering about other districts being subjected to extensive public records requests.
I don’t believe in coincidence, or that this narrative is organic. Something else is going on here. Last Friday, June 4, 2021, I filed a public records request with the South Kingstown school district seeking, among other things, records of communications with the Superintendents Association and public sector unions regarding Nicole and/or PDE, and records as to how Cummiskey’s statements were approved.
My suspicions were confirmed, in part, last night during a School Committee public meeting when Cummiskey gave a statement announcing she was stepping down as Chair, though not from the School Committee entirely. Cummiskey stated that she did not write the statement attacking Nicole and accusing PDE of being racist. She said the statement in its various forms for media, social media, and public hearing, was prepared by a Public Relations firm hired by the School Committee at the recommendation of the Committtee’s legal counsel.
[Note, in the statement Cummiskey gave, there’s a reference to a mailer. That’s a separate issue of a controversy over the leak of student names and addresses to a local AFL-CIO affiliate for use in a campaign to approve a school bond, that ultimately was rejected.]
Here is the key excerpt from the statement (full video below):
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.
It’s worth noting that there was no apology to Nicole or retraction, just blaming others for the smear.
Who was the Public Relations firm? What connection does that firm have to the emerging narrative being pushed of PDE being a “racist” threat to local school districts.
Something is going on here that has nothing to do with Nicole. We will be investigating whether there is a coordinated effort to intimidate the public into not filing public record requests regarding Critical Race activities in schools by smearing them as racist.DONATE
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