Wellesley School Committee talking legal strategy

The Wellesley School Committee on Tuesday meets at 4pm for an executive session (behind closed doors after public speak) to discuss its strategy regarding a lawsuit filed by Parents Defending Education vs. Wellesley Public Schools.

Parents Defending Education, a national parents group supported by some Wellesley families, has followed up a May civil rights complaint against Wellesley Public Schools filed with the U.S. Department of Education with a federal lawsuit reemphasizing concerns about the school system’s approach to handling racial and bias issues.

The issue of paying for legal costs came up toward the end of Wellesley’s Special Town Meeting last week in Article 7, which called for an extra $150K over the budgeted $350K to cover legal fees in fiscal year ’22. In addition to legal expenses associated with school matters, COVID-19, building projects, union negotiations, and more have contributed to this anticipated need. Article 7 easily passed. (You can see discussion on Article 7 at about the 7-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording.)

One Town Meeting member asked about where all the public record requests are coming from that Wellesley needs to handle,  and Executive Director Meghan Jop said their has been an increase of late on requests for school-related records. Those can often be involved, as names of minors are redacted, etc., to protect privacy.

Town Counsel Tom Harrington responded to a question about the recent federal suit filed against the public school system by stating “it’s very early days and we are still formulating strategy, and I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of that at all.” He noted as well that it’s not the only civil rights case being dealt with, as others might involve employee issues.

Harrington did say the town “is exploring joint defenses as they present themselves,” acknowledging that Wellesley probably isn’t the only community facing a suit like the one brought by the parents group.