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Schmitt sues Springfield Public Schools amid CRT probe 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools (SPS) Tuesday, alleging Sunshine Law violations after his office requested records on critical race theory (CRT) from the district. 

The lawsuit alleged the district publicly admitted it taught CRT in a report published in December. Schmitt’s office requested the district’s training materials but was provided with a $37,000 fee estimate, according to the lawsuit.

“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 training and applying social justice scorecards to math and other core curriculum,” Schmitt said. 

“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,” the Republican attorney general continued. “Now, we’re taking Springfield Public Schools to court for those public records. I will always fight for parents’ rights to know exactly what schools are teaching their children.”

The lawsuit, filed in Greene County, urged the court to find the district violated the Sunshine Law, levy $1,000 civil penalties for any knowing violation of the law, and order the district to release its documents. 

The challenge also pointed to statements from the district’s chief equity and diversity officer.

“In 2020, with four years of an administration that has focused on school choice, the restriction of diversity training for state and or governmental entities like schools and threatening funding of schools who wish to expand their curriculum to become culturally consciousness and other dangerous tactics to stop inclusive learning for students, the role of social justice in K‒12 public education is just as important as it was during segregation if not more,” the officer said in a report

“SPS has been very clear: Critical Race Theory is not being taught in our classrooms,” SPS spokesman Stephen Hall told The Missouri Times. “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.”

Schmitt, a candidate for U.S. Senate, also challenged Columbia Public Schools in August over its mask mandate, though his suit was denied. He backed a lawsuit against Jefferson County school’s quarantine policies last month; its revocation followed shortly thereafter. 

CRT has been a focal point of Republican officials throughout the interim: Gov. Mike Parson decried the practice in July after the Joint Committee on Education began its examination of parents’ concerns. A survey by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released in July found only Kansas City Public Schools using CRT in its curriculum, though a handful of districts said they taught the controversial New York Times’ 1619 Project.

A bevy of Republican legislators asked the governor over the summer to use his chief executive power to ban the teaching of CRT prior to the start of the school year, though Parson did not act on the request. 

The conflict has spread across the national spotlight, with the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) separating from its national counterpart after it likened concerned parents to “domestic terrorists.”

Critical race theory is an academic and legal study of how racism has impacted the U.S. — from politics to culture and more. The 1619 Project, a New York Times undertaking, has faced criticisms about its accuracy.

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This report has been updated with the statement from Springfield Public Schools.