SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A case brought by Rhode Island’s largest teachers union was back in Superior Court today seeking to halt South Kingstown schools from releasing documents as part of a sweeping records request.
The lawsuit also named resident Nicole Solas, whose public records pursuit started with questions to an elementary school principal about what her child might be taught in kindergarten. Solas has since gained national notoriety, including several appearances on Fox News.
Between April and July, Solas and her husband filed 200 and 100 requests, respectively, seeking curriculum information as well as other materials such as “past and present lesson plans that incorporate or promote the ideologies of antiracism, gender theory, transgenderism and critical race theory.”
Jon Riches, a lawyer for the public policy conservative think tank Goldwater Institute, who represents Solas pro bono, argued National Education Association Rhode Island has no legal standing to bring the lawsuit.
Riches said the state’s Access to Public Records Act doesn’t give a third party the right to bring a lawsuit, arguing the public records requests only involved Solas and her husband, and the South Kingstown school committee and department.
Carly Beauvais Iafrate, a lawyer for the NEARI union, argued Solas and her husband were only named because state law requires all interested parties to be named. She said if Solas and her husband request to be removed from the lawsuit, the union will agree.
Iafrate also said the public records requests included teachers’ personnel and disciplinary records, which are exempt from APRA. She repeatedly said the union only brought the lawsuit to protect teachers’ rights.
When reached for comment regarding today’s hearing, NEARI executive director Bob Walsh told Target 12 the union “generally does not comment on on-going litigation.”
Riches told Target 12 in a statement, “We are hopeful the Court will dispose of this case once and for all and protect these parents’ and all parents’ right to know what our children are learning in school.”
To make their arguments, Riches and Iafrate referenced several previous Rhode Island court cases. Judge Linda Rekas Sloan said she would consider the lawyers’ arguments and review these cases. She said she hoped to deliver an oral judgment by Dec. 20.