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Schmitt sues Moberly Public Schools for alleged Sunshine Law violation

Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit against the Moberly Public School District over an alleged Sunshine Law violation involving the district’s policies on Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings. 

The lawsuit, filed in Randolph County, alleged Schmitt’s office notified the district in September that its policies barring parents from recording IEP meetings violated the law and pointed to recording rules parents were required to follow. When the Attorney General’s Office filed a Sunshine Law request to attain records on how those policies were enacted, the district allegedly imposed a $3,000 estimate to produce the records. 

After reducing its fees, the district still sought thousands of dollars before distributing its records, according to the lawsuit. 

“As the father of a child with disabilities, I know first-hand how valuable an effective Individualized Education Plan can be, and how crucial it is for parents to have a say in how that plan is formulated and implemented,” Schmitt said. “The Moberly Public School District’s policy that places roadblocks in parents’ ability to record these IEP meetings is outrageous, and their refusal to produce public records relating to that policy is even more absurd. I will not stand idly by while Moberly Public Schools stonewalls parents from having a say in their child’s education, and that’s why we filed suit today.”

Schmitt’s challenge includes four counts: Violation of the law by demanding fees to review and redact documents, demanding advance payment, not researching records in a way that incurred the lowest amount of charges, and using an outside contractor to manage public records.  

Schmitt urged the court to find the district violated the Sunshine Law, require it to produce its records, and impose civil penalties. 

The district allowed parents to provide notice of their intentions to record through a form and had not barred any parents who had filled out the form from recording meetings, according to a public statement regarding the Sunshine Law request.

“The Moberly School District has maintained a longstanding policy that prohibits audio and video recording on school grounds without prior permission. This policy was drafted and approved by the legal team of the Missouri School Boards’ Association. The prohibition of recording on district property was designed, in part, to help protect the confidentiality and legal interests of students and employees as required by federal law,” the statement said. “The district recognizes and appreciates the attorney general’s advocacy for parents.”

A spokesperson for the district did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Schmitt filed a similar lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools (SPS) last week, alleging it requested a $37,000 fee for records on its racial equity curriculum, which Schmitt’s office alleged included critical race theory (CRT). A spokesman for SPS told The Missouri Times the CRT allegations were unfounded and decried the “shameful” lawsuit.

Schmitt, a candidate for U.S. Senate, also challenged Columbia Public Schools in August over its mask mandate, though that lawsuit was denied. He also backed a lawsuit against a Jefferson County school’s quarantine policies, which were altered last week

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