National Education Association Rhode Island dropped its emergency injunction request in court over release of Critical Race records, but now pretends “We won!” It still faces Solas’ anti-SLAPP compensatory and punitive damage claims for bringing the case in the first place.
You remember “Baghdad Bob” – the Iraqi Information Minister who in 2003 infamously and with absolute confidence declared for the TV cameras that U.S. tanks had not entered Baghdad, as those tanks were within earshot of him.
A similar thing is happening in Rhode Island now with the National Education Association. For those who are not familiar with Rhode Island politics, the teachers unions run the state with loads of politicians in their back pocket. They are not used to losing, so when they got whooped in court the other day by local mom Nicole Solas, they pulled a Baghdad Bob routine, declaring “We won!”
Some background. Solas is the local mom who first told her story at Legal Insurrection about her frustration with the South Kingstown School District obstruction of her requests for information about Critical Race and Gender instruction in kindergarten, which her daughter was scheduled to enter. The story went viral nationally when the School Committee threatened to sue Solas, claiming she filed too many requests under the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA). The School Committee backed down after the national spotlight.
But the unions were not happy. NEA-South Kingstown held an emergency meeting with members about how to deal with Solas.
The school district dropped the lawsuit idea, but its responses to Solas were very aggressive in asserting statutory exemptions and broadly redacting the documents they did produce. Legal Insurrection Foundation experienced similar aggressiveness in the school district’s response to our own request.
NEA-RI must have known about how aggressive the district was in asserting exemptions and making redactions, because Solas regularly complained about it on social media, which union members, administrators, and attorneys almost certainly were monitoring.
Yet NEA-RI ran into court screaming that it needed an emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the school district from producing more records to Solas (and her husband) because personal protected information about teachers not subject to APRA likely would be revealed. The Complaint and motion papers were extensive.
But NEA-RI never had a case, legally or factually. Legally, under clear Rhode Island Supreme Court case law, an outside party (like the union here) has no legal standing to challenge the production of documents under the APRA process. So NEA-RI had no business being in court against the school district and Solas.
Factually, there was no basis to believe that the school district would produce records not subject to APRA. As I pointed out in my initial review of the complaint and motion, the complete lack of evidentiary submission was shocking. Not a single affidavit was filed demonstrating that the school district would not assert exemptions and redact personal private information. The school district, in its Answer to the Complaint, denied that personal information would be produced.
The fearmongering by NEA-RI was lacking in legal or factual basis, as pointed out in excrutiating detail by Solas’ pro bono lawyers at The Goldwater Institute.
Face with a collapsing case, NEA-RI sought a way out. As revealed during the court hearing, NEA-RI said that if the school district would represent that it would apply exemptions and redact private personal information not covered under APRA, NEA-RI would drop the TRO motion. This request did not extract anything from the school district that the school district wasn’t already doing. The school district on the record confirmed that its normal procedure would be applied, it didn’t agree to do anything more.
Here’s how I wrote it down during the hearing (not a verbatim transcript, but accurate in substance):
School Atty – can confirm as to pending requests. only request paid for is 47 (and 59) – Superintendent emails – have been redacted in accordance with exemptions under statute.
NEA Atty – given representations of school department will “not press” the motion
So NEA-RI dropped the motion it had invested so much in. In exchange, it got nothing additional beyond what the school district was doing even prior to the lawsuit. It was a total failure and embarrassment — though not as embarrassing as having the Justice toss the motion because NEA-RI lacked standing. That ruling will come later, as Solas has filed a motion for summary judgment and to take discovery in aid of her anti-SLAPP statutory compensatory and punitive damage claims against NEA-RI and NEA-South Kingstown.
No rational person would consider this a win for the union. If you doubt the above narrative at all, read through our prior posts about the lawsuit that link to and quote from the pleadings and briefs. The union had nothing. Nothing.
- Teachers Union Sues Mom Nicole Solas To Prevent School District From Releasing Critical Race Teaching Records
- RI Teachers Union Seeks Emergency Injunction Preventing Release of CRT Records To Mom Nicole Solas (Update)
- Unions May Have Major Legal Problem In Lawsuit Against RI Mom Nicole Solas Over Public Records Of Critical Race Teaching
- Teachers Unions Exposed To Anti-SLAPP Punitive Claim For Suing Mom Nicole Solas Over Critical Race Records
- Court Filing: RI Mother Nicole Solas Demands “Compensatory and Punitive Damages” Against Teachers Unions Under Anti-SLAPP Statute
- Teachers Union and School District Appear To Be Colluding Against RI Mom Nicole Solas In Lawsuit
- UPDATE: Teachers Union v. RI Mom Nicole Solas – Motion for TRO Withdrawn By Union During Court Hearing
Despite the humiliation of having to withdraw an emergency motion, the union spun it as a victory.
“We are pleased with the outcome from today’s hearing regarding the APRA requests filed in South Kingstown. We had concerns with two categories of documents: 1) collective bargaining and 2) privacy rights of individual NEARI members. 1/2
The School Department demonstrated they understand the need for individual privacy and clarified to the court that their actions would not be in conflict with our concerns. Because SKSD is addressing the issues we raised, there is no need for a temporary restraining order. 2/2”
The spin was doubled down by NEA-RI Executive Director Robert Walsh, Jr., who declared that this was the plan from the start, everyone else was just not smart enough to see it.
“Yesterday’s “political theater” as a play in 3 acts:
I. We went to court to protect teacher privacy and collective bargaining confidentiality in APRA requests
II. The defendant agreed to address both issues as we desired
III. We left court satisfied
(Some critics missed the play)”
NEA-RI’s leadership even declared “we won” in a YouTube session.
Ah, yes. Now it’s clear. The “play” was to file a legally and factually unfounded emergency motion, resulting in extensive briefing and reply briefing, and then drop the whole thing in court when you were about to lose, in exchange for nothing additional from the school district than they would have given you without the lawsuit. Brilliant!
There’s one problem for NEA-RI. The case is not over. It can drop its TRO motion, but it still faces Solas’ anti-SLAPP compensatory and punitive damage claims for bringing a legally frivolous and harassing lawsuit intended to interfere in the exercise by Solas and her husband of their statutory and constitutional rights.
Which brings up an important legal maxim: She who laughs last, laughs best.DONATE
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