Forest Hills school board notified of legal jeopardy from ‘culture of kindness’ resolution

Two lawyers accuse the board of ‘trampl[ing] the constitutional rights of students and teachers’
The Forest Hills school board voted Wednesday evening on a resolution that would ban critical...
The Forest Hills school board voted Wednesday evening on a resolution that would ban critical race theory and anti-racism curriculum.(Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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UPDATE: Parents, teachers and students filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Forest Hills Board of Education regarding the “culture of kindness” resolution.

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ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - Two Forest Hills parents have written a letter to the board of education listing possible grounds for legal action against the district after last week’s passage of a resolution banning “anti-racism” curricula including critical race theory.

“We want to very clearly state to you that the Resolution violates numerous established legal and Constitutional rights, and will subject the Board and this school district to lawsuits and potential legal liability. The Resolution must be rescinded immediately,” the letter reads.

The letter is dated Friday, June 24. It is embedded in full at the end of this story.

MORE | Forest Hills selects new superintendent; candidate drops out due to anti-racism resolution

The letter was written and co-signed by Nicole M. Lundrigan and W. Kelly Lundrigan of Lundrigan Law Group in Anderson Township. They have four students in the district.

“We are also lawyers,” they write, “and the last thing that we want to do is sue our own school district and Board. However, we will not sit idly by while you trample the Constitutional rights of students and teachers and destroy this school system.”

Passed during a contentious board meeting last Wednesday, the resolution proposes to “create a culture of kindness and equal opportunity for all students and staff” by prohibiting use of critical race theory, intersectionality, identity or anti-racism curricula for student education or staff training.

It provides an exhaustive list of students’ “immutable characteristics”—race, class, religion, gender identity, sex, sexual preference, ethnicity and culture. It then bars educators from using those characteristics to draw attention to “certain biases, prejudices or other unsavory moral characteristics or beliefs.”

It does not list those biases despite there ostensibly being a “certain” amount of them, and the sentence structure leaves open the interpretation that there exist some biases of a “savory” moral character that would be ok in the classroom.

The resolution also bars schools from forcing individuals “to admit privilege or oppression[...]”

Board member Sara Jones authored the resolution. She defended it during the meeting last Wednesday as a way to “reenergize and reshape the conversation about racial justice in America.”

The resolution text concludes, “Nothing in these resolutions shall be construed to restrict any expressive activities protected under the Constitution generally or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically, including but not limited to academic freedom or student political speech.”

The Lundrigans argue the resolution violates not only the First Amendment but also the Fourteenth.

They say it is vague and overbroad, that it was enacted for “illicit political and partisan reasons,” that it is has an “invidiously discriminatory purpose” and that it constricts “the spectrum of available knowledge” in violation of students’ free speech rights.

“It has been long-established in the United States that racism is abhorred by our Constitution, and, despite this, the Resolution promotes racism by prohibiting curriculum which teaches that racism is illegal, as well as morally wrong, and has no legitimate place in any public school classroom in the United States. We are not going to go backwards two hundred years,” they say.

The Lundrigans also note the resolution makes it infeasible for the district to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies because, they argue, the resolution prevents the district from recognizing discrimination in the first place.

“Simply stated, the school district cannot comply with its legal obligations of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity and also comply with the Resolution,” they say.

The Lundrigans end by writing, “The Resolution must be rescinded immediately. To keep it in place after being on clear notice of the legal jeopardy it creates will only subject the school district and the Board to further liability.”

MORE | Forest Hills School Board scraps annual Diversity Day

The Lundrigans told FOX19 on Monday they have not yet received a response from the school board.

We have reached out to each board member for comment but have yet to hear back as of this writing.

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