When Nicole Solas, a Rhode Island mom, was preparing to enroll her daughter in kindergarten this year, she had one simple question: did the school teach critical race theory and gender theory to five-year-olds?
The answer to that question was not so simple, or at least, the South Kingstown, Rhode Island school district didn’t want it to be. Both the principal and chair of the school committee told Solas she would need to submit public records requests in order to find out the content of her daughter’s taxpayer-provided education.
When Solas submitted the requests, the school rejected them, claimed the requests were unclear. The school even held a meeting to discuss threats to sue Solas. When attorneys from the Goldwater Institute submitted another request on Solas’s behalf, the school said they could hand over the documents — but only if Solas paid more than $74,000 in processing fees.
The Goldwater Institute’s request was for any school communications that included terms such as “CRT,” “white privilege,” “gender theory,” “1619 project,” and “systemic racism.” The school district estimated it would take 4,954 hours — more than 619 business days — to retrieve the documents mentioning those terms.
Jonathan Riches, the director of national litigation at the Goldwater Institute, said the fact that the district claimed it would take so many hours to comb through the documents indicated high levels of CRT in the curriculum.
“They’re clearly speaking out of both sides of their mouth here. You have a situation where they have suggested that they’re not teaching things like CRT, but then when you ask for real specific records of emails that include the phrase ‘CRT,’ and curriculum and lesson plans that include that phrase, they’re saying it’s 5,000 hours of time to go through all that,” Riches said. “Obviously there’s a lot of materials that are out there, a lot of communications that are out there that are discussing many of the very things that the school district is disavowing teaching.”
Solas said the Goldwater Institute reached out to represent her after learning that the school district was evading her records requests.
“We believe the school is engaging in a pattern of obstructionism to prevent me from getting the information that I had requested on my own,” Solas told the Federalist. “I felt like I was an enemy of the state from the beginning. This was my first experience with public school as a parent. I didn’t think that I would be treated like an adversary but I’m getting more and more information from other parents who say that they’re treated in similar ways too.”
According to Solas, many other local parents have reached out to her privately to share their experiences of what their children learned in the South Kingstown district. The school refrains from calling students boys or girls, supports Black Lives Matter, and shames kindergartners for American ideals and traditions.
“They asked the students what could’ve been done differently on Thanksgiving,” Solas said. “That is obviously a way to shame children for their American heritage. And it’s really a ridiculous question to ask five-year-olds because they don’t have a sense of history at all. To ask them what could’ve been done differently on Thanksgiving is impossible for a five-year-old to answer — I don’t even know if an adult could answer that.”
Riches told Fox News there was no reason it should be difficult for parents to find out what is being taught to their own children at taxpayer-funded schools.
“What our children learn in school shouldn’t be a government secret,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a controversial proposition to say we should have open and transparent government, especially when we’re talking about publicly funded schools using our tax dollars and here you just have a conscientious parent asking ‘Hey, what’s my child going to learn?’”
The Goldwater Institute has responded to the school district and is in the process of determining next steps.
“Under Rhode Island law any request for fees has to be reasonable and that’s the language that’s used in the statute,” according to Riches. “It seems to us that asking a parent to pay $74,000 to see what their kid is learning is not reasonable under any circumstances.”
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