AG Eric Schmitt files suit against Springfield Public Schools alleging multiple violations of Missouri’s Sunshine Law

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmit filed suit against Springfield Public Schools (SPS) on Tuesday alleging multiple Sunshine Law violations after the Attorney General’s office requested documents relating to Critical Race Theory.

“Parents have every right to know exactly what is being taught to their children, especially when public school systems are implementing components of Critical Race Theory and so-called ‘antiracism’ teachings in teacher trainings and applying social justice scorecards to math and other core curriculum,” Schmitt said in a press release

SPS has come under heavy criticism lately for several controversial issues including implementing Critical Race Theory into their curriculum, diversity and equity training for teachers and adjusting students’ grades based on their race.

At one of the diversity and equity trainings, teachers and staff were required to analyze an “oppression matrix” and identify where they are located on it. According to the matrix, individuals are labeled as “privileged” if they are white people, “assigned male at birth” or protestants. Being an adult is also classified as privileged on the matrix as adults can apparently participate in “ageism” or “adultism”.

Another exhibit that was presented to SPS staff discussed “covert white supremacy” and labeled “education funding from property tax” and “colorblindness” as notions of white supremacists. An additional figure titled “Understanding White Supremacy Continued” stated that any expression of “Make America Great Again” is also an example of white supremacy.

In May of 2021, SPS announced it had formed a “Culturally Relevant Curriculum Review” and adopted a “Culturally Responsible Scorecard” to incorporate a student’s race into teachers’ grading protocols. Doubling down on the race-based evaluation of children, SPS Chief Equity and Diversity Officer has claimed that the need for social justice in K-12 education in today’s society is “just as important as it was during segregation, if not more.” 

According to the Attorney General’s office, after the SPS School Board limited public comments and announced they weren’t releasing teacher training materials to the public, Schmitt filed a Sunshine Law request asking for all materials relating to CRT and “antiracism”. In response, SPS sent the Attorney General a sizable invoice demanding an initial deposit of $37,000 for the cost of his request. 

The lawsuit alleges, “Springfield Public Schools violated [the Sunshine Law] by demanding a deposit for items or services other than copies as a precondition to making public records available to the Attorney General’s office.” Schmitt also alleges that SPS failed to provide hourly rates for “employees of the body that result in the lowest amount of charges for search, research, and duplication time” as required by law. 

The lawsuit notes several discrepancies in the school district’s response to the public records request compared to their responses to similar requests made by the Show Me Institute and State Rep. Craig Fishel. 

Last month, Fishel sent a Sunshine Request to SPS seeking all documents mentioning any of 24 terms often associated with CRT including white privilege, white fragility and systemic racism, among others. 

To his surprise, the school district responded with a massive invoice totalling over $190,000 for the cost of retrieving the documents and a seven-year timeline to fulfil the request. Schmitt’s lawsuit alleges that these separate requests received two vastly different cost rates, which would be against state law.

“Springfield Public Schools has skirted our efforts to demand answers and transparency for parents who send their kids to Springfield Public Schools by demanding exorbitant fees for public records,” said Schmitt, a candidate for U.S. Senate. “Now, we’re taking Springfield Public Schools to court for those records.”

The lawsuit includes 13 counts and asks the court to declare that SPS violated the Sunshine Law and to order the school district to release all responsive records to the Attorney General’s office. The full petition can be found here.

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