The Rhode Island branch of a major teachers union is suing to block a school district from fulfilling a mother's public records requests, citing the sheer volume of requests and concerns about teacher privacy.
The case revolves around a mom, Nicole Solas, who caught national attention for her quest to address critical race theory (CRT) in her child's district. School board members previously considered suing Solas over her copious records requests – at least 200 – but declined prior to the recent lawsuit.
"We are asking the Court to conduct a balancing test to determine whether our members’ privacy rights outweigh the public interest," said Jennifer Azevedo, who serves as deputy director of the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI). "We believe they do, and those records should either not be disclosed or should be redacted accordingly."
In a filing dated Thursday, NEARI requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction from the state's superior court. Both Solas and employees of the school district are named as defendants.
Solas fired back, telling Fox News, "You cannot be employed by the state and also demand immunity from public scrutiny. That's not how open government works in America. Academic transparency is not a collective bargaining negotiation. It's a parental right."
NEARI's verified complaint, which was filed Monday, states: "Given the circumstances of the requests, it is likely that any teachers who are identifiable and have engaged in discussions about things like critical race theory will then be the subject of teacher harassment by national conservative groups opposed to critical race theory."
Cornell law professor William Jacobson also argued that "[t]his lawsuit makes little sense on its face. The unions purport to be protecting their members non-public documents and information, but the public records law only applies to "public records" as defined under the statute."
The filing from Monday, however, seeks for the court to examine certain categories of documents which are "potentially public records" under the Access to Public Records Act.
It adds that if records aren't determined to constitute a "clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy," they should be disclosed with redactions of personally identifiable information or "information which may lead to the identity of such teachers."
The lawsuit reflected an ongoing battle playing out across the country where frustrated parents are demanding answers from education officials.
Both the NEA and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have opposed efforts to limit CRT and its related ideas in school. NEA previously approved a resolution conveying its desire to fight "anti-CRT rhetoric."
Another prompted Senate Republicans' scrutiny by declaring that the NEA would "research the organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work and/or use the research already done and put together a list of resources and recommendations for state affiliates, locals, and individual educators to utilize when they are attacked."