The struggle to obtain curricula materials used in Newton high school history classes has been ongoing since 2012. The NPS' unlawful tactics, including the outright refusal to provide such material, charging parents to view material used in their own children's classes, and excessive charges to view materials, have prevented parents from receiving full and accurate information as to what our children are learning.
Demand for Payment and Formal Records Requests
Amazingly, the NPS demands that parents make a formal request and pay to see materials used in their own child's class. This unreasonable requirement evidences the lack of respect administrators have for students, parents, and the community at large.
In one instance, the History Department Chair at Newton North High School refused, in writing, to provide class materials to a parent. After the Principal ignored their requests to intervene, the parent filed an appeal to the Massachusetts Public Records Division. When ordered by the Division to provide the materials, the NPS gave the parent a recognizably incomplete set of materials, with missing pages and sections of text cut off. It took four more appeals to the Public Records Division before the materials were obtained.
In another case, the NPS demanded over $6,000.00 to reproduce class material from a single year of World History at Newton South High School; a request that could easily have been satisfied at great savings in cost and resources, as suggested by the filer of the request, by utilizing digital files. As the NPS refuses to consider that option, however, and it is not mandated by Public Records Division regulations, the NPS used this as an excuse to demand these exorbitant charges.
The parents made the request mid-year after becoming concerned about some of the material their child was bringing home. Former NNHS Principal Jennifer Price told the parents that their request to see material in advance of its use was "unreasonable" and that they would only be permitted to view material after it was distributed to the class. The parents were also told that if they wanted to view material that might be distributed, they could view the previous year's material but would be charged for it.
The parents never did receive the material, as the NPS also demanded that in order to obtain the material, the parents attend a meeting for which no administrator had available time until the end of the school year.
NPS Policy is to Withhold Information about School Curricula
After making formal requests and paying excessive fees, parents are given only part of the information they ask for. In violation of state and federal law, NPS officials have unlawfully conspired to withhold relevant information from parents and residents. An email from then School Committee Vice-Chair Matthew Hills to Superintendent David Fleishman stated:
"As a matter of policy...we have asked David and the NPS team not to collect and disseminate curriculum information for this or any other course other than to the extent it is normally distributed to students. We do not feel there is any policy issue involved... [there] is a FOIA request outstanding that, if pursued, will lead to the NPS compiling certain curriculum information. Given the policy issue and given the FOIA request, we have asked David to avoid compiling and distributing curriculum information for this and any other course, including the request that you sent to him."
The NPS' actions not only violate state and federal law, they illustrate a profound lack of respect for the students and parents they claim to serve.