Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Tuesday sued the city of Springfield, alleging the local school district secretly withheld nearly 30 days of online training sessions promoting the “Black Lives Matter” philosophy from local teachers.
Hawley filed a lawsuit in Fayette County Circuit Court claiming Springfield does not provide the hours of training required by state law, which mandates that school districts provide attendance hours and a description of the classes.
“Unlike the federal government, the state of Missouri does not require schools to teach anything – not even prayer – beyond the foundation of the Constitution. (We) protect the freedom of religion and association as constitutionally guaranteed,” Hawley said in a statement. “When school districts seek to hide the most important content of the curriculum from parents and taxpayers, we act.”
Hawley in May 2018 called for the lawsuit after learning of the training, which allegedly was completed on school district time. The classes were for members of the Springfield Education Association and local teachers. The classes reviewed such “cultural issues as police violence and criminal justice, as well as issues related to race in America,” according to the complaint.
The training meets all requirements under Missouri’s Secondary Education Act, Hawley’s office said.
The suit alleges that Springfield “had a breakdown” in its financial reporting, leading to the misunderstanding that the online trainings had been covered by other sources, such as a superintendents’ summit in July and a Springfield school board meeting last month.
“When the fees for these training sessions were first charged, they were passed on to teachers as a cost-saving measure. It turns out that these were not cost-saving measures, but were a waste of taxpayer funds,” Hawley said.
The matter is in the hands of a judge. If it is not resolved, the lawsuit seeks an order requiring that the district comply with the law.
“The state attorney general is overreaching with this lawsuit,” Springfield Superintendent of Schools Diane Koury said in a statement Tuesday. “School districts across the state are given legislative mandates based on local decision-making. Springfield has carefully implemented those regulations and practices, and will continue to follow them.
“Recently, some individuals have misinterpreted the legislature’s role in requiring school districts to provide public school employees with school employee training. It is important to make it clear that the role of the Legislature, in enacting the law, was not to create new requirements, but to act as a monitoring body and ensure districts were not implementing their own laws of course. The attorney general’s office has failed to follow that process. This lawsuit distracts from educating our students and represents government overreach.”