Michigan Mother Sues for Info on Gender and Diversity Studies
Rochester district provided only partial material on hot-button courses, Mackinac-supported suit claims
A mother’s lawsuit against the Rochester Community School District highlights a growing dispute over parental rights to review what children are being taught and school districts’ obligation to comply with open records laws.
Carol Beth Litkouhi is being represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation in a suit seeking classroom materials related to a gender studies and diversity class. Litkouhi’s two children attend school in the district, and she requested information on the coursework after being alerted by a teacher’s social media post on classroom topics. Her requests, Litkouhi says, were not fulfilled, and she filed an open records request seeking course materials.
Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act requires that “full and complete information regarding the affairs of government” be disclosed to the public.
In response to her FOIA request for information on instruction in gender studies, Litkouhi says, district officials sent her a one-page teacher lesson plan, a one-and-a-half-page course outline, and a slide deck for a teaching training session. It did not offer her curricular material, Litkouhi says, and officials told her no such public records were “in the District’s possession.” She filed an appeal with the district, and officials did not provide any further records.
After the district denied her appeal, Litkouhi filed suit to obtain the relevant course materials. In response, the district denied that it has an obligation to ask individual school employees, such as teachers, for records subject to disclosure under Michigan’s FOIA.
“To the extent Plaintiff’s claim is that Defendant is required to gather and provide copies or access to documents created or possessed by individual teachers employed by Defendant,” the district said in its response to Litkouhi’s suit, “such claim lacks merit because individual employees do not constitute public bodies as defined by MCL 15.232(h).”
Litkouhi then submitted a different request, this time for materials used since 2020 to train teachers in the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The district, she said, estimated that the cost of supplying the relevant documents to her would come to $836.90, with a $418.45 deposit required. She paid the deposit, and the district denied her request for copies of portions of the material, citing copyright laws that prevent it from duplicating the requested material. The district did agree to let Litkouhi review the materials in person.
“I am suing the school district because I believe they are violating the Freedom of Information Act in order to prevent me from viewing classroom materials,” Litkouhi told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “I am disturbed that the district is willing to go this far, even as far as breaking the law, to conceal information from parents that we are legally entitled to view. I hope my case can establish an important legal precedent that will encourage public school districts to be transparent and communicative with parents and taxpayers in the community.”
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.