By JONATHAN M. BELL
Parents of Plano students will file a class action lawsuit
today claiming the Plano Independent School District ignored
their fundamental right to have direct input in the education
of their children.
The lawsuit stems from a year-long struggle over connected
math, a new middle school math curriculum.
Concerned parents formed the organization Math Choice
initially to oppose the adoption of connected math as the
standard PISD middle school math curriculum and to preserve
the traditional math teaching methods.
Once connected math was adopted by PISD trustees, Math
Choice shifted its focus to trying to convince the district to
provide traditional math courses as an alternative for their
children. The lawsuit is the latest attempt to force the
district to provide such classes.
The Texas Justice Foundation will file the lawsuit in
federal district court in Sherman on behalf of six parents.
The foundation expects 500 or more parents to join the lawsuit
after it is filed.
The initial six parents are Celia J. Chiu, Denise Brown,
Veronica Jenkins, Denise Kirke, Alfred Kirke and Kenneth
Foundation lawyer Thomas Stack said the lawsuit will
demonstrate that PISD has an obligation to recognize the
educational desires of the parents of its students.
"The debate is no longer solely the curriculum --
should we have it or not," Stack said. "The debate
now is parental rights. It's over the right of parents to
request with reasonable expectation that it's not going to be
denied the addition of a specific class."
A "request with reasonable expectation that it is not
going to be denied" is a reference to the language in the
Texas Education Code, Section 26.003(a)(3)(A), which states
parents can request classes be offered if they are in keeping
with the required curriculum, if sufficient interest is shown
and if it is economically practical.
Former Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Moses ruled
that section did not apply in the specific case of connected
math in Plano.
Stack insists that it does apply.
"We have a very different opinion as to the effect and
validity of that statute in this situation," he said.
"The district violated the fundamental right of parents
to direct the education of their children."
In addition to issues of educational choice for parents,
the lawsuit will allege that individual parents' rights were
abridged by the district during the ongoing conflict over
"We've sued the district, and we've sued all the
individual board members as well for violations of free
speech," Stack said. "Mr. Kirke and Mr. Johnson were
specifically forbidden from distributing literature at public
meetings, and that is a violation of free speech. Veronica
Jenkins was told she could not have a position on a parents'
committee simply because of her perceived agenda on the math
A lesser claim in the lawsuit concerns the experimental
nature of the connected math curriculum.
"There are some in the math profession who believe
that this connected math program is what's called an
experimental program and that basically these children have
been human subjects in an experimental program without
parental consent," Stack said. "That's not a big
claim, but it's still part of the lawsuit."
PISD officials would not comment on the lawsuit Tuesday
because it had not yet been filed and they had no chance to
Johnson, one of the initial plaintiffs, is upset both
because he feels parents are not being given the right to
choose their children's education and because his own freedom
of speech was impinged upon during the process of choosing the
"At one of the parents' math nights, I handed out to
parents the TEA evaluation of the (connected math)
textbook," Johnson said. "As I was handing it out,
one of the principals got in my face and ordered me off the
property. It was the closest I feel I've come to being
Johnson did not leave the meeting but did stop handing out
the information, he said.
"Parents needed to know the public information about
the curriculum," he said. "I have a huge problem
Johnson stressed that the lawsuit is not focused on
discontinuing connected math in Plano.
"One of the things we're all believers in is local
control," he said. However, "local control in Plano
does not include parents."
The Texas Justice Foundation will have a news conference at
1 p.m. today in front of Haggard Middle School to announce the
Parents in PISD who want to join the lawsuit may contact
the foundation at 210-614-7157.
Contact staff writer Jonathan M. Bell at 972-424-4585, Ext.
1265, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.