A Parent’s Guide:

Getting Answers from Your Pubic School

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Do you know what your children are being taught in school? As parents, we might take for granted that schools are teaching our children the kinds of lessons that we learned. But the truth is, many children are being exposed to radical political content in America’s K-12 classrooms–and it’s happening right under our noses.

Racially divisive ideologies like Critical Race Theory are being forced on our kids, and young children are being taught about gender identity and sexual orientation – all while parents are left in the dark. Many parents don’t even know what’s being taught to their children because schools are going out of their way to keep it secret. Thankfully, there’s another powerful tool called public records requests that parents can turn to for answers.

Parents’ Right to Get Information from Public Schools

Today, many schools might share general and broad information about what is being taught in schools, like officially adopted “curriculum” frameworks and basic textbooks. But that’s no longer enough. The fact is, there’s so much more that is taught to our children that parents simply don’t know about. 

Simply asking your child’s teacher or school for detailed information about curriculum is a great place to start. You’ll want to be specific, asking for detailed daily lesson plans, all books being taught, movies being shown to your child, and other instructional material. In some cases, your school might be glad to give you those answers. But that might not always be the case. But since public schools receive taxpayer funding, they are required to give answers under public records laws.

What Are Public Records Laws?

Every state has a public records law which helps guarantee open and transparent government. That means parents have the right to ask their public schools questions – and get answers. By following some relatively simple steps, parents can begin the public records process. You can learn more about those laws here.

Under state public records laws, transparency is the general rule and secrecy is the exception. As a result, there is typically a strong presumption in favor of disclosure. If government entities claim that some information should be withheld under public records statutes, the burden is frequently on the government to prove an exemption to disclosure. In each state, there are administrative and judicial processes allowing citizens to seek review of public records responses that do not comply with state law.

Who Can Use Public Records Laws?

State public records laws are strong tools available to all citizens to ensure open government. They are frequently designed to encourage disclosure, and often provide robust protections to citizens who have been denied access to public information. That means parents can get information about what their public school is teaching their child. 

The public records process begins with a public records request.

How To Request Public Records

You’re Not Alone: A Parent’s Fight for Answers from Her School

Nicole Solas is a mom who had a simple question for her school: What will you teach my daughter in Kindergarten?

Nicole started with a reasonable first step. She emailed the school principal and asked to see the curriculum. But school officials didn’t seem terribly interested in giving her a straight answer, instead directing her to file a public records request. So she did. But Solas still wasn’t getting any answers.

That’s when Nicole turned to the Goldwater Institute for help. The Goldwater Institute is a non-profit organization staffed with pro-bono attorneys who defend parents’ rights. A Goldwater Institute attorney stepped in on Nicole’s behalf and made additional records requests on her behalf. This time, instead of just stonewalling her, the school district tried billing her $74,000 just to access simple information about her daughter’s kindergarten curriculum.

That’s intimidating for any parent, but Nicole wasn’t alone. With the Goldwater Institute’s help, Nicole is able to defend her rights and is continuing her fight to get the answers she’s entitled to.

School Records Overview

State public records laws are predicated on a basic and fundamental tenet in our constitutional republic: open and transparent government. Although many people are familiar with the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), some may be surprised to learn that each state has its own public records law that applies to state and local governments. This includes government agencies, departments, cities, towns, school districts, and other entities that engage in public business or receive taxpayer money. State public records laws are often broader than the federal FOIA.

The public records process begins with a public records request. A public records request must include important information in order to be effective, including: Date, Subject Line, Addressee, Statutory Citation, Information Requested, Statutory Deadline, Fees for Search or Copies, and Contact Information. In addition, the way you submit your request makes a difference. 

This all sounds complicated, but the Goldwater Institute has created an easy guide to walk you through the process.

If you have any questions, you can contact the Goldwater Institute. They are there to help.

NEED HELP GETTING ANSWERS?

Contact the Goldwater Institute.