A Mother Just Filed a Lawsuit Against a Michigan School District for Violating Freedom of Information Act

Parents with children in government schools are demanding curriculum transparency. These parents tend to be Christians and conservatives who oppose the teaching of “critical race theory,” and homosexual and “transgender” indoctrination. At least 12 states have introduced transparency laws.

Carol Beth Litkouhi, a mother in Rochester, Michigan, filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the school district for information on a course called “History of Ethnic and Gender Studies.” The district gave her a copy of the unit plan for the course, but Litkouhi wasn’t satisfied. She appealed, and the school district denied her request for more material.

Litkouhi filed a lawsuit. From the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which represents her (emphasis added):

The district said it denied the appeal because there were no other relevant documents. The district, however, failed to address specific arguments Carol Beth made. In particular, if there were no relevant documents, that would mean classroom material had not been produced for a course that was actively being taught, and had been taught for over six months.

Separately, Carol Beth filed another FOIA request on December 27, 2021, asking for materials relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the years 2020-2022. Rochester Community Schools granted the request after some correspondence on February 11, 2022. But it alleged that some of the relevant materials were protected by copyright, and because they were copyrighted, the district could not produce copies of them.

The school district has thwarted a parent’s right to know under the guise of copyright law. Under Michigan law, a parent or legal guardian has a right to review “the curriculum, textbooks, and teaching materials of the school in which the pupil is enrolled at a reasonable time and place and in a reasonable manner.” School boards “may adopt reasonable policies or guidelines under this section.”

Is claiming copyright protections a reasonable policy? Is copyright even at issue?

The Mackinac Center contends that the school district’s refusal to honor her full FOIA request “significantly hinders the goal of FOIA, which is to provide all people with ‘full and complete information regarding the affairs of government…so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.'”

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