MIDLAND, Mich. — The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued the Rochester Community School District on behalf of Carol Beth Litkouhi after the district withheld curriculum materials for a "History of Ethnic and Gender Studies" course and records related to its diversity, equity and inclusion training. Litkouhi, a parent of two children who attend school in the district, tried to review materials related to the training, but the Rochester district refused to respond fully and withheld important records.
Like many parents, Litkouhi wants to be informed about what is being taught in her children’s schools. A teacher’s social media post about some books being used in a new ethnic and gender studies class raised concerns about whether a variety of perspectives were being represented. She requested more information from the teacher, who directed her to the district’s diversity, equity, and inclusion director as well as the superintendent. She was given a few documents, including a unit plan and an ice breaker assignment, but very little about the course material itself.
After months of repeatedly asking for information and being redirected, Litkouhi filed an additional FOIA request for the course materials on Dec. 14, 2021. In response, the district again refused to provide any additional material. Litkouhi appealed and was told that the district was not in possession of the requested documents, even though the class had been taught for six months.
The district refused to ask the schools for the records, which would have allowed Litkouhi’s request to be granted. At the same time, the district forbids members of the public from directly requesting records from the schools themselves. While a school may be in possession of the requested records, they are essentially unattainable through FOIA requests.
“Parents have a right to know what is being taught to our children,” said Carol Beth Litkouhi. “It is incredibly disappointing that the district continues to refuse to be transparent and has stonewalled my efforts to learn more about what is being taught in the classroom. Michigan parents deserve better.”
A separate request was filed on Dec. 27, 2021, for teacher training materials related to diversity, equity, and inclusion training from 2020 to 2022. Litkouhi paid a $400 deposit and was told she could review the materials on site, but the district refused to provide copies of the materials.
“Schools must make curricula available to parents under Michigan law,” said Steve Delie, director of open government and transparency at the Mackinac Center. “Despite this, Rochester schools has repeatedly failed to fulfill this legal obligation. It shouldn’t take months of back and forth, hundreds of dollars and a lawsuit just to see what is being taught in your community.”
Learn more about the case here. View the complaint here.
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