RI Teachers Union Seeks Emergency Injunction Preventing Release of CRT Records To Mom Nicole Solas (Update)
What are the unions trying to hide?
(See added analysis below.)
The Rhode Island branches of the National Education Association filed suit against the South Kingstown School District, School Committee, and local mom Nicole Solas, arguing that public records requests filed by Solas should not be complied with. You can read the background and details in our post yesterday, Teachers Union Sues Mom Nicole Solas To Prevent School District From Releasing Critical Race Teaching Records.
Today NEA-RI filed for emergency injunctive relief, seeking a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. You can read the full filing below and at the bottom of this post:
The Court electronic docket does not yet reflect a hearing date.
MORE TO FOLLOW
Update: Added 6:20 p.m.
I was pulled away today on other things, finally able to give my thoughts on this TRO filing.
First, where are the affidavits? The entire premise of the purported emergency is that if the court doesn’t act now, private records not subject to disclosure will be produced. On what basis is that assertion made? Who told the unions that would happen? Are the unions in touch with either the District, School Commitee, or their attorneys? If so, one would expect an affidavit either attesting to a conversation or attaching emails. The Complaint is Verified, but the evidence is lacking in the complaint. That is critically important because everything we know about how South Kingstown responds to public records requests is that they are very, very (I repeat, very) aggressive in asserting exemptions and redacting documents. (See prior post for an example.) There is nothing in the filing that suggests South Kingstown would do otherwise here, and certainly nothing of an evidentiary nature to back up such speculation. Without this evidence, the motion should fail at the outset.
Second, the motion seeks to upend the entire public records statutory scheme. The legislature clearly considered that some non-public records might be requested, that is why the legislature included numerous exemptions (see prior post for statutory language) from disclosure that entities, such as school districts, subject to the public records law could assert. So for the unions to demand the court intervene because someone allegedly requested non-public records disregards the statutory scheme providing for exemptions.
Third, I can’t say it’s unprecedented, but it’s very unusual for an entity (NEA-RI) that is not involved in the public records process to seek to intervene in that process. Normally, the way these disputes reach court is that the entity refuses to turn over records claiming an exemption, and the requester seeks a court ruling for disclosure. That is what happened in the main case relied upon by the unions, Lyssikatos. That’s not the case here. Solas has not filed a complaint seeking records withheld by the District. This is just so bizarre that without evidentiary support the unions would run into court seeking an emergency injunction over a public records process to which they are not a party. If this process is permitted, it opens the court to issuing advisory opinions on records that no party to the public records process actually seeks to disclose, based on the fears by non-parties to that process.
Fourth, I suggested in the prior post that this “smelled” collusive. Whether there was “collusion” in the sense of active cooperation or not, I can imagine a scenario in which there is no real dispute here. South Kingstown is sick of Solas’ public records requests and the embarrassment she has brought the district, and the School Committee even considered suing her then backed away after public outcry. The unions also are sick of Solas, have held at least one meeting warning about her (see prior post), and want her to go away as to public records. So both the plaintiff (the unions) and the primary defendants (the district and School Committee) are aligned in their interest in having Solas’ public records requests shut down in substantial part. This easily could have resulted in a stipulation so-ordered by the court denying production of certain records and subjecting other records to a burdensome and endless review process, essentially shutting Solas down. But there’s a problem — Solas had to be named because she is the real party in interest as the requester, as the unions admitted in the complaint:
9. Defendants Solas and Hartman [her husband] are named and included only insofar as Plaintiffs are required to do so pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-30-11 which provides that “[w]hen declaratory relief is sought, all persons shall be made parties who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration, and no declaration shall prejudice the rights 0f persons not parties t0 the proceeding.”
Fifth, which leads me to wonder what really is going on here. I strongly suspect that the unions are not really afraid that confidential non-public personnel records would be produced by South Kingstown. There’s nothing to suggest that is how South Kingstown operates. Rather, there is a “tell” in the papers, a focus on someone who is not even a union member anymore, retired teacher Robin Wildman. From the Complaint:
27. For example, Request No. 158 submitted by Defendant Hartman calls for “all complaints against Robin Wildman. App. B, p. 2.
28. Wildman is a retired teacher and former member 0f NEA.
35. For example, Request N0. 164 calls for all e-mails between Linda Savastano (the former Superintendent) and Robin Wildman for a period 0f two years. App. B, p. 2.
From the Memo of Law:
Documents which may contain such [disciplinary] information may be produced in response t0 Request No. 158 submitted which calls for “all complaints against Robin Wildman;”3
3 While Wildman is now retired, she was a teacher and member 0f NEA during the time period for which the e-mails are requested.
Records that implicate teacher e-mails. Documents which may contain such information may be produced in response to Request No. 164 which calls for all emails between Linda Savastano (the former Superintendent) and Robin Wildman for a period 0f two years, ….
Who is Robin Wildman that they don’t want her emails with the superintendent revealed? She’s a CRT activist who is at the center of a complaint Solas filed with the RI Attorney General’s office, as The Washington Times reported on July 29, 2021:
[Solas] filed her complaint with the Rhode Island attorney general after she was told she could not attend weekly meetings of the BIPOC Advisory Board, a group that began meeting last September to propose new policies for hiring, athletics, discipline and a host of other concerns for the K-12 public schools there.
The board is led by Robin Wildman, founder of Nonviolent Schools Rhode Island, who has been paid $7,474 for her services through June 30, according to school vendor records. It is expected to finish its work by August, and thus far the South Kingstown School Committee has given preliminary approval to the Board’s proposed changes to its discrimination policy.
In a May interview with The Collective, a left-wing bookstore and “organizing space” in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, Ms. Wildman said she approached the school district with the idea for a “BIPOC group that would look at policies and practices and make recommendations to create a more inclusive, antiracist district.” BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color.
A retired 5th-grade teacher, Ms. Wildman said she believes teaching and activism go hand-in-hand.
“I believe in working for justice, not equal rights,” she said, saying that systemic racism means “the vast majority of those that control all of the systems in our country are White.
“Justice means breaking down the oppressive systems that prevent BIPOC from accessing opportunities in your community that White people have,” Ms. Wildman said.
Ms. Solas said she learned of the board’s existence through a local news report, and that Ms. Wildman was being paid to “facilitate” the board’s meetings.
“When I learned that this board existed and was getting paid to revise school policies I asked to come and see the meetings and was told they are not open,” Ms. Solas said. “For a year now, they have been squeezing all their policies through the lens of anti-racism and essentially injecting racism into everything.” …
So I take with a bucket of salt union claims they are concerned about South Kingstown voluntarily revealing private non-public records about union members. More likely, they are afraid their role in pushing CRT in South Kingstown, and targeting of Solas and other dissident parents, will be revealed.
Sixth, the school districts and unions are united in wanting to scale back the public records laws. The unions and the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association (RISSA) both sought to amend the public records laws based on Solas’ requests, as we covered in an earlier post:
Legal Insurrection Foundation has learned that the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association (RISSA) is spearheading an effort to alter the RI Access to Public Records Act (APRA), using highly charged partisan political messaging among its members. RISSA has enlisted the help of friendly legislators and unions in a behind-the-scenes effort that denigrates “many of our citizens [who] live in a separate news reality with Fox, Newsmax and their ilk.”
That effort stalled after Legal Insurrection published the details and the Rhode Island ACLU raised concerns, but it’s clearly still on their minds. (We have learned more about RISSA’s activities that we will reveal in a later post.)
Seventh, you’re gonna need to hire more judges. In all, I don’t know if a court will feel the need to dig deep into the motivations and intrigue. The motion should be denied because the procedure the unions propose upends and inverts the public records statutory scheme and normal process. If the court adopts the union approach, the court is going to have to hire more judges, because every person who, without actual evidence, believes their personal records may be disclosed by a goverment entity would be able to run into court seeking a TRO.
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