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Advocates file lawsuit over St. Louis Public Schools’ refusal to disclose records on relationship with police

American Friends Service Committee and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri seek information on the district’s policies, procedures, and practices

St. Louis school protest
Students, families, and community members protest in St. Louis, calling for schools to divest from policing.  Photo: Joshua Saleem / AFSC

ST. LOUIS (January 31, 2022) – Today, the ACLU of Missouri filed two lawsuits over the failure of the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) to comply with Sunshine Law requests for information. One lawsuit involves SLPS’s relationship with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The other involves fines and fees SLPS charges families for technology devices. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (Legal Services), respectively. Both lawsuits demand that SLPS follow the law and provide the records that have been requested by these organizations.

“Open government means that schools must be transparent,” said Luz María Henríquez, ACLU of Missouri’s Executive Director. “Schools cannot hide their business arrangements with police behind closed doors, especially with real student safety at stake,” she stated. “Likewise, schools cannot refuse to produce records as requested by Legal Services, thwarting their work with low-income families who simply want equal access to educational tools for their children.”

AFSC has worked with SLPS since 2012, implementing restorative justice programs and supporting youth leadership. In 2020, AFSC launched the #RealStudentSafety campaign calling on the school district to end their relationship with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and invest the $3.2 million currently spent on safety officers on wraparound services and restorative enrichment programs that promote real student safety. AFSC used the Sunshine Law to request details of SLPS and the police department’s business arrangement, as well as documented complaints against paid private security professionals in the schools. It has been over five months since the request was submitted and, despite communications with both the custodian of records and the superintendent, no records have been produced.

“It is unconscionable that the school district will not provide clarity around its relationship with one of the most violent police departments in the country,” said Joshua Saleem, director of AFSC’s St. Louis program. “In order to address this, we need transparency from SLPS on their current relationship with the police and their investment in student supports that reduce harm and promote overall student well-being.”

As part of an investigation into barriers faced by students and families in accessing technology in school districts across Missouri, including fees charged by SLPS for District-provided technology devices, Legal Services used the Sunshine Law to request records concerning the policies and practices of SLPS related to technology fees and fines as well as the demographics of the students affected by these policies and practices. It has been more than eight months since the request was submitted and, despite repeated requests and communication with the custodian of records, no records have been produced.

“SLPS’s refusal to comply with the Sunshine Law regarding our technology information request risks undermining public trust and makes it difficult for the community to understand the rights of the students in SLPS’s care. We need transparency from SLPS so that we can better partner with SLPS’s students and families. Such transparency will also strengthen SLPS as an institution and a community partner in the fight for education equity,” explained Amanda Schneider, Managing Attorney of Legal Services’ Education Justice Program. 

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The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions, with a focus on the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri advances justice through legal representation, education, and supportive services. Founded in 1956, Legal Services has four offices in St. Louis, Clayton, Union, and Hannibal that provide free civil legal help in 21 eastern Missouri counties.

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