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The following column is by Nicole Solas, a mother in Rhode Island and a client of the Goldwater Institute.
I’m just like any parent—when I enrolled my daughter in kindergarten, I wanted to know what she would learn. In response, our school district bullied, harassed, defamed, evaded, and stonewalled me. Then the teachers union sued me. I left public school because I no longer felt safe but I’m still taking action to get answers.
Kindergarten is a precious milestone. Our babies are not babies anymore: They go to school for full days. Parents want to know their children are safe at school, and they want to feel confident that their children are receiving a quality education. I knew many public schools across the country have been politicizing lessons, so I called my principal in the South Kingstown School District in Rhode Island to ask if they teach concepts of Critical Race Theory or gender theory. That question and the events that followed changed my life.
The principal said they don’t call children “boys” and “girls,” and teachers embed values of gender theory into classroom lessons. They ask kindergartners, “What could have been done differently on Thanksgiving?” How can five-year-olds answer such a bizarre question that shames them for their American heritage? The principal told me these were “common practices” but could not define a “common practice” or tell me when these “practices” originated. Now I wanted to know these “common practices” and the educational pedagogy supporting them, but the school refused to answer my questions.
Instead, my school did everything in its power to evade me. The school told me to submit public record requests, but when I submitted what they considered to be too many requests, the school publicly threatened to sue me. They held a special public meeting to target me and treated me as if I were on trial. There, they publicized my public record requests and my personal emails. They allowed community members to speak in support of me or against me, and one woman whom I’ve never met turned directly to me and called me racist. The school even hired a PR firm to smear me in the national media. Later, the local teachers’ union had a meeting with 250 teachers where they put my name and picture on slides characterizing me as “threat to public education.” Two months later, the Rhode Island branch of the National Education Association filed a frivolous lawsuit against me to silence me and send a message to other parents that they could be punished for asking questions too.
This is all because I did what the school told me to do: submit public record requests about Critical Race Theory and gender theory. I became the target of an organized and vicious attack—all because I dared to ask questions about my child’s education.
But it backfired. Treat parents like adversaries, and they will respond like adversaries.
The Goldwater Institute has stepped in to defend me against this bullying litigation and to help me access the public information to which all parents are entitled. Without the help of a public interest law firm like Goldwater, it would be nearly impossible to pay for my legal defense and challenge a powerful public school district. But parents should not need a lawyer to know what their children are learning. Parents should not be sued by a $300 million dollar union just for asking questions.
All parents have the right to know what their kids are taught in the classroom. There is absolutely no reason why our public schools should keep this information under lock and key. Instead of being transparent, school districts bully parents like me who challenge their woke activism. If schools are so proud of what they teach, why do they go to such great lengths to hide it?
I now understand what it means to be abused by government power. If South Kingstown School District and the teachers union can so viciously target a parent, what will stop them from targeting a vulnerable child? I could not subject my daughter to such a hostile learning environment that attacks anyone with questions or a different point of view.
In stark contrast, I asked my new private school whether they taught or practiced Critical Race Theory and gender theory and the answer was simple: no. I had a tour, met the kindergarten teacher, and had my curriculum questions answered in one day. None of that was possible in the South Kingstown School District.
I hope that my story encourages more parents to ask questions about what their children are learning in public school. Remember that your taxes fund public school, and you are entitled to know exactly what you are paying for. I know the risk of retaliation is real—it happened to me—but our kids are worth the risk, and I’m still here fighting back. We have to show our kids how to stand up for themselves. If we don’t teach them that, who will?
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