Teachers Union Sues Mom Nicole Solas To Prevent School District From Releasing Critical Race Teaching Records
Previously, Solas was threatened with a lawsuit by the South Kingstown School Committee for seeking too many records regarding Critical Race and Gender teaching, now the Rhode Island chapter of the National Education Association has actually filed suit claiming many of the records are “private.”
Nicole Solas is the South Kingstown, Rhode Island, mother who gained national attention when she told her story at Legal Insurrection regarding her stymied efforts to obtain school records regarding teaching of Critical Race and Gender theory, I’m A Mom Seeking Records Of Critical Race and Gender Curriculum, Now The School Committee May Sue To Stop Me.
We have followed Solas’ story since the beginning:
- I’m A Mom Seeking Records Of Critical Race and Gender Curriculum, Now The School Committee May Sue To Stop Me
- 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”
- Update: Smear of Mom Nicole Solas Was Prepared By Public Relations Firm Hired By South Kingstown (RI) School Committee
- 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
- “Parents Will Prevail” – Rhode Island Mom Nicole Solas Reacts To Resignation of Pro-Critical Race School Board Member Who Smeared Her
- Rhode Island Mom Involved In Critical Race Public Records Fight And Targeted By NEA Gets High-Powered Legal Help
Solas has had dozens of national media appearances, and has continued to make news in Rhode Island and nationally. I expect that news cycle will continue because Solas was just sued by the Rhode Island branches of the largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Association, trying to prevent South Kingstown from providing Solas with information she has requsted, including communcations involving the union or its members.
You can read the full Complaint with exhibits (pdf.), filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, at the bottom of this post. Legal Insurrection is the first to report on the lawsuit.
We will add additional analysis and commentary to this post. My initial take is that this smells collusive. South Kingstown doesn’t want to produce records and the union is helping them out. The lawsuit purports to prevent disclosure of “private” information, but the public records laws and Solas’ requests pursuant to those laws only require the district to produce public records. The district has been very aggressive in asserting exemptions and redacting documents, so the union’s concern and rush to court seems peculiar, at best.
It’s worth noting that the South Kingstown NEA previously targeted Solas, as we reported, by holding a special membership meeting singling her out as a danger.
MORE TO FOLLOW
This lawsuit makes little sense on its face. The unions purport to be protecting their members non-public documents and information, but the public records law only applies to “public records” as defined under the statute (emphasis added):
(4) “Public record” or “public records” shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data processing records, computer stored data (including electronic mail messages, except specifically for any electronic mail messages of or to elected officials with or relating to those they represent and correspondence of or to elected officials in their official capacities), or other material regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency. For the purposes of this chapter, the following records shall not be deemed public:
(A)(I)(a) All records relating to a client/attorney relationship and to a doctor/patient relationship, including all medical information relating to an individual in any files.
(b) Personnel and other personal individually identifiable records otherwise deemed confidential by federal or state law or regulation, or the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq.; provided, however, with respect to employees, and employees of contractors and subcontractors working on public works projects that are required to be listed as certified payrolls, the name, gross salary, salary range, total cost of paid fringe benefits, gross amount received in overtime, and any other remuneration in addition to salary, job title, job description, dates of employment and positions held with the state, municipality, or public works contractor or subcontractor on public works projects, employment contract, work location, and/or project, business telephone number, the city or town of residence, and date of termination shall be public. For the purposes of this section “remuneration” shall include any payments received by an employee as a result of termination, or otherwise leaving employment, including, but not limited to, payments for accrued sick and/or vacation time, severance pay, or compensation paid pursuant to a contract buy-out provision.
(E) Any records that would not be available by law or rule of court to an opposing party in litigation.
(H) Reports and statements of strategy or negotiation involving labor negotiations or collective bargaining.
(S) Records, reports, opinions, information, and statements required to be kept confidential by federal law or regulation or state law or rule of court.
As described in the Complaint, Solas seeks “records” which may not be “public”. But if that is the case, they do not have to be disclosed:
22. The requests include, but are not limited to, requests for records that may relate to labor relations which do not constitute public records. For example, 0n May 16, 2021, Solas submitted Request N0. 48 Which calls for “digital copies pertaining to the AFL-CIO in the last four months.” App. B, p. 1
23. The “AFL-CIO” is an acronym for the American Federation 0f Labor and Congress Industrial Organizations. It is a federation of unions that includes the NEA.
24. Solas also submitted Request N0. 100 Which calls for “digital copies 0f public documents relating t0 Patrick Crowley in the months of March, April, and May 2021.” App. B, p. 1.
25. Patrick Crowley is a NEARI employee and Rhode Island AFL-CIO official.
The Complaint alleges a large document production on July 13 by the district, but does not allege that that production included records outside the scope of “public records” under the statute:
45. Based 0n the scope of the requests concerning Savastano’s e-mails, upon information and belief, a response would call for communications between teachers Who are NEA members and Savastano that are not public records or would otherwise not be subject t0 disclosure because disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
46. On or about July 13, 2021, the Defendant School Committee responded t0 one of the recent APRA requests by releasing a total of about 6,500 pages of documents.
I don’t know what those 6,500 pages contained, but if it’s anything like what South Kingstown produced to Legal Insurrection Foundation pursuant to our request for records regarding a School Committee statement about Solas, it probably almost entirely redacted based on the exemptions in the statute:We received hundreds of pages that look like this (we will be following up on this): Is there any reason to think South Kingstown will not follow the statute by providing too much information? If so, there’s nothing in the Complaint to show that. The district is represented by legal counsel, who already has stipulated to service of the Complaint. That same legal counsel has been involved in the district’s responses to public records requests, and they are not shy about asserting exemptions.
The unions want the court to review document productions in camera based on a suspicion that South Kingstown will turn over non-public documents. Seriously? If that’s the case, the Superior Court is going to have to hire more judges.
Another curious item. It seems that the unions are concerned that their actions regarding CRT and Solas will be disclosed by the district (emphasis added):
65. It is anticipated that teacher records will be produced that will be of a personal nature and will contain the identities of the teachers engaged in the personal communication as well as other communications that relate to personnel issues, disciplinary issues, performance issues, medical issues and issues not related t0 the official business of the School Department.
66. It is further anticipated that teacher records will be produced that may or will contain discussions about union-related activities which are not public records subj ect t0 disclosure.
67. It is further anticipated that teacher e-mails will be produced that may or will contain discussions about critical race theory curriculum or other issues 0f “interest” to the requestors that will contain individual teachers’ names and personally identifiable information.
70. Given the circumstances 0f the requests, it is likely that any teachers who are identifiable and have engaged in discussions about things like critical race theory will then be the subject of teacher harassment by national conservative groups opposed to critical race theory.
The Rhode Island School Superintendents Association, with help from unions, has sought to amend the public records law, a matter first reported on by Legal Insurrection. Anticipate another push by the unions in light of this lawsuit.
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