All Things Considered

Report: People worried about masks, critical race theory barrage Minnesota schools with costly records requests

Signs are seen on a bench during a rally.
Signs are seen on a bench during a rally against critical race theory being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va., on June 12, 2021.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP via Getty Images

Minnesota school districts are facing a barrage of records requests from parents and law firms associated with campaigns against masks and critical race theory. And these often sprawling requests are costing districts: Rochester Public Schools estimated it would cost $900,000 to fulfill one, and the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school system said it would take staff two years to complete another.

That's according to Beth Hawkins, who wrote about this for the education news site The 74 Million.

“It should be lost on no one that this is a midterm election year and tapping into parental anger about the COVID issues of the last couple of years has been politically galvanizing,” she said on All Things Considered Wednesday. “We saw that in the fall 2021 elections on the East Coast, and I can only imagine that similar tensions are being stoked here.”

Hawkins also said that the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Metropolitan Association of School Districts are asking the legislature for help, either by weakening the public records law that requires them to answer the requests or by helping them cover the cost of compiling responses.

Districts across the country are facing a similar flood of requests, putting both school resources and access to public information at stake, as district officials and lawmakers grapple with how to deal with the requests.

Hawkins joined MPR News host Tom Crann Wednesday. To hear their conversation, click play on the audio player above.