AG Schmitt’s Sunshine Law lawsuit a frivolous dig for CRT – Springfield News-Leader

Kyler J. Sherman-Wilkins, Ph.D.

Frivolous lawsuits being filed that serve no other purpose than to rouse up one’s base? Must be election season! Of course, I am referring to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s decision to sue Springfield Public Schools (SPS) for their alleged violations of the Sunshine Law. More specifically, Schmitt is suing SPS over claims that the district is “stonewalling” the process of gaining access to materials that may suggest that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught in schools.

The reality? First, CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools here in Springfield, and second, the district has cooperated with the AG and merely requests resources to offset the thousands of hours of staff time needed to fully comply with the overly broad request so that the burden does not fall on Springfield taxpayers.

So what is going on here? The answer is simple: In filing this lawsuit, AG Schmitt is being motivated by his desire to politically grandstand and appeal to a base that has been made to believe that addressing issues surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion is harming our children. I strongly believe that Schmitt seeks to stand out among a crowded GOP field vying for the nomination to fill retiring Senator Roy Blunt’s (R) seat and does not care whether he abuses the power of his office to do so.

This is not the first time I have chosen to call out a politician seeking to waste time and resources to pursue the non-issue of CRT being taught here at SPS. Last month, I alleged that Missouri State Representative Craig Fishel’s (R) Sunshine Law request calling on SPS to review their servers for 24 terms often associated with CRT was merely an act of political grandstanding.

During our in-person meeting, it became abundantly clear that Fishel does not know what CRT is, nor does he have any real evidence that it is being taught in our district’s schools. It is truly remarkable to me that one can call on SPS to engage in a costly venture without fully understanding what they are looking for.

I would reckon that AG Schmitt has a similar misunderstanding of what CRT actually is. If he did, then he would certainly know that the excerpts of the training materials that he provided as part of his lawsuit filing is standard diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. In other words, Schmitt is not against CRT, he is against any effort to address issues concerning DEI and, therefore, is against our district addressing the challenges faced by students from historically excluded groups.

Our district is facing very real challenges, including issues in recruiting and retaining teachers and staff, addressing the academic and health impacts on our students brought on by COVID-19, continuing to build trust between parents and school administrators, and ensuring that all students feel safe and supported in their school setting. Our public officials should be working to address these challenges. Our youth and our community certainly deserve that.

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University. His research, teaching and writing centers on diversity, equity and inclusion; racial/ethnic disparities in health and aging; and public policy.

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