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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the Springfield school district, alleging that the district violated a transparency law by restricting access to teacher and staff training that promoted critical race theory.
“Today we sued Springfield Public Schools on behalf of parents to find out exactly what is being taught to their children, especially as teachers and staff are attending trainings where they’re required to consult an ‘oppression matrix’ and other materials,” Schmitt told Fox News on Tuesday. “Springfield Public Schools have stonewalled parents and a state representative, but they will not stonewall the Attorney General’s Office.”
The lawsuit alleges that Springfield Public Schools publicly acknowledged that it had been instructing teachers and staff on critical race theory – a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface. In a December 2020 report, the school district reported that it had required district leaders and staff to participate in a one-day training from the Facing Racism Institute, and the district claimed the goal of the training was to “introduce the components of critical race theory from educational research with applications to the district.”
In one training session, an instructor told teachers and staff to consult an “oppression matrix” and identify where they fall on it. According to the matrix, “privileged social groups” include “white people,” people with “male assigned at birth,” “gender conforming CIS-men and women,” “adults,” and “Protestants.”
Instructors also presented staff with a figure on “covert white supremacy,” which presented “BIPOC as Halloween costumes,” “tokenism,” “All Lives Matter,” and “Eurocentric curriculum” as examples of “socially acceptable” “covert white supremacy.”
Instructors also presented a figure claiming that “Celebration of Columbus day,” “Make America Great Again,” “Confederate flags,” and “Denial of White Privilege” are examples of “covert white supremacy.”
The lawsuit also notes that SDS’s chief equity and diversity officer claimed that after four years of the Trump administration, “the role of social justice in K-12 public education is just as important as it was during segregation if not more.”
Schmitt alleged that SDS Superintendent Grenita Lathan said “no” when asked whether or not the school system will “share with the public” any future equity training documents. He noted that SDS received two Sunshine Law requests for training materials since Lathan’s statement, and claimed that “on both occasions, Springfield Public Schools provided outrageous fee estimates totaling tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although both Sunshine Law requests were identical, Springfield Public Schools provided completely different fee estimates.”
SDS spokesperson Stephen Hall responded to the lawsuit in a statement provided to Fox News.
“SPS is disappointed by the Attorney General’s decision to use the power of his office to attack public education,” Hall said. “This is an attempt to intimidate SPS, and while it will not prevail, it will unfortunately require considerable taxpayer resources to defend.”
Hall noted that Schmitt’s Sunshine Law request “is similar to” a request from state House Rep. Craig Fishel. “In both circumstances, the requests are extraordinarily broad in scope and have the potential to divert hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of district staff time to search and review thousands of pages of documents,” the SDS spokesperson said. “The original request includes all staff and student email communications sent over multiple years.”
He said the school district will “seek appropriate reimbursement” for the requests, noting that it is “accountable to taxpayers and to the educational needs of our 24,000 students. In the meantime, any deliberate misrepresentation of the district’s work by elected officials must end.”
Hall argued that the lawsuit represents “a loud, divisive, and misguided distraction.”
“SPS has been very clear: Critical Race Theory is not being taught in our classrooms,” he insisted. “Our work is focused on equity, not CRT. SPS is being intentional in the educational experiences we provide all of our students. Ensuring our district is equitable and inclusive is our ethical responsibility to make SPS safe for all students and staff. Any deliberate attempt to misrepresent this important work, especially for political purposes, is shameful indeed.”
While school districts have repeatedly denied teaching critical race theory, concerned parents have pointed to documents showing that staff trainings and school policies are based on ideas such as systemic racism and White privilege, ideas that grew out of CRT, parents say.