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After Mom Threatens Lawsuit, Kenosha Public School Lets Her Watch Son’s Class

Kenosha school classroom observation

After illegally barring a concerned mother from observing her son’s class at one of its public charter schools, the Kenosha Unified School District backed down following the threat of legal action, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) announced on Monday.

On behalf of the parent, WILL sent a letter to Superintendent Dr. Bethany Ormseth last week, reminding her that federal law and the school board’s own policy require schools to allow parental observation in classrooms. Just two days later, the Kenosha school district agreed to grant access to the mother, who had reportedly sent multiple requests to administrators at both her son’s school and the district but had repeatedly been denied.

“My client is grateful to KUSD for recognizing the right of parents to observe classrooms,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington. “We hope that other parents and public-school districts around the state will move towards collaboration, rather than conflict, as we all seek to improve educational outcomes.”

It started when the mom, whose son attends the Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum, became worried about his dropping grades. WILL said the student had reported many classroom disruptions that had contributed to his struggle, including fighting, profanities, racial epithets, and property damage, as well as a new math curriculum that doesn’t include a textbook nor homework.

The mother wanted to observe her son’s learning environment to help him and began requesting access in September, but both the school district and the school reportedly denied her requests multiple times, offering inconsistent rationale as to why she couldn’t enter.

Bill Haithcock, the chief of school leadership for the district, allegedly told the mother that an in-person observation would serve “no educational program,” disregarding the school’s charter contract, which says, “Parents are important partners in the educational program at KTEC.” He also reportedly said he didn’t think it was the “best idea right now” to “expos[e] the class to an outside visitor,” yet as WILL noted, the district’s policies and social media pages indicate that many other kinds of visitors such as chaperones, mentors, and nonprofit employees are welcomed.

The school district also allegedly told the mom that she was “not connected to the educational curriculum” as a parent and that letting her visit the classroom would open the door to many other parents wanting to observe.

As WILL argued in its letter, these denials are illegal, according to federal law signed by the Obama administration in 2015. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, public schools must have systems in place that involve parents in educational settings.

Parents have many other rights in their children’s education, however, such as the right to access curriculum, see progress reports, communicate with staff, schedule yearly parent-teacher conferences, and participate in their kid’s classes.

Parents across the country have been emboldened to take action against teachers, administrators, school boards, and elected officials who don’t respect their rights to control the education of their children. This trend was seen most clearly in recent months in Virginia, where concerned parents in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, among other areas, increasingly vocalized their frustrations over critical race theory, mask mandates, school closures, sexual assaults and coverups, and corrupt leadership.

After Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” and doubled down on keeping parents out of public schools, GOP candidate and parent advocate Glenn Youngkin won the election in the same state President Joe Biden won by 10 points just a year ago.

“If public schools continue to treat parents as adversaries by concealing what’s going on inside school buildings, they face the real risk of an electoral backlash, like we just saw in Virginia,” Lennington told The Federalist.

The Kenosha Unified School District backing down at the prospect of legal trouble is a win for parental rights and another small signal that parents do have the power to reclaim their children’s educations.

“When confronted by parents over hot-button issues such as critical race theory, deteriorating school discipline, and mask mandates, all too many public schools have unfortunately abandoned transparency in hopes of somehow avoiding accountability,” Lennington said. “But now, more and more parents are waking up, learning their rights, and boldly reclaiming those rights.”