SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A lawsuit filed against Springfield Public Schools’ Board of Education, the superintendent and SPS board members states the re-entry plan for the fall semester is harmful to students and does not provide equal access to education.
Springfield Attorney Kristi Fulnecky is spearheading this lawsuit and is petitioning the court for a temporary and permanent injunctive relief against SPS’s re-entry plan.
The lawsuit asks that SPS allow families to choose whether or not their child(ren) can attend school in-person, five days a week, “based on the grounds that the current plan violates the Plaintiff’s’ constitutionally and federally protected rights, including Article 1, Sections 1-3 and 10 of the Missouri Constitution, the 14th amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”
“The Springfield Public Schools re-entry plan is incredibly harmful to many students, but especially to students with unique disabilities and circumstances,” Fulnecky said. “Many of these students are unable to participate in online learning and will regress. SPS has not provided equal access to education for these students.”
Fulnecky said the re-entry plan would create “unnecessary economic hardship” on the parents who would have to either quit their job to homeschool their children or hire a professional who is trained to work with unique disabilities.
“The residents of Missouri have rights to free and equal access to public education as provided for by our property taxes,” Fulnecky said. “If SPS does not offer a five-day in-person learning option, the plaintiffs would like to see a partial refund of property taxes for reduced in-class learning. The majority of families in the Springfield School System have been scrambling to piece together school, care and even therapy options for their children. If the school doesn’t offer a five day a week in-person option, the education and mental state of these children will suffer.”
Springfield Public Schools gave OzarksFirst the following statement:
“Springfield Public Schools remains focused on serving its students, staff and community during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to providing educational resources that meet a variety of academic needs, SPS is also responsible for creating a safe learning and working environment for students and staff. With the current level of increased Covid-19 exposure in our community, the district has made the wise decision to reduce the number of people within school buildings to allow for appropriate social distancing when school resumes on August 24. In addition, SPS will appropriately require masking for all students and staff and implement increased cleaning protocols. SPS is offering as much choice to students and parents as possible, with the promise that the district will reevaluate the ability to increase the number of in-person days in the classroom at the end of the first quarter. The decision will be based on health data that tracks the local progression of the pandemic and its effect on the school environment. The legal action announced today does not provide practical solutions to address the unique and significant challenges faced by the school district and the community. It is an unfortunate distraction, without legal merit, during a difficult time for everyone.”
You can watch the full press conference below.