Details Emerge in ‘CRT’ Lawsuit
A threatened lawsuit against the Town and Board of Education (BOE), has come to fruition after a group of parents filed the suit in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Sept. 7.
The 27-page complaint takes aim at Guiford Public Schools’ (GPS) curriculum implementation policies, claiming the district has adopted a “radical, racist agenda” and a “policy and practice of discriminating against, and bullying, the children of parents who have taken a public” stand against the policies. It details an extensive list of alleged incidents directed at the plaintiffs’ children including name-calling, bullying, harassment, and indoctrination, as well as allegations of physical abuse and assault by other students.
Filed by New Haven-based defense attorney Norman Pattis of Pattis and Smith, the plaintiffs include William Maisano, Danielle Scarpellino, Tim Chamberlain, and four minor children. All three of the adult plaintiffs are former candidates in the November 2021 BOE race. Ally Passarelli, an initial party of the suit, is no longer attached to the litigation. Pattis is most well-known for his recent representation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The suit specifically names Dr. Paul Freeman, superintendent of GPS; Annie Crystal, assistant superintendent of GPS; James Pappa, assistant principal at E.C. Adams Middle School; Michael Regan, principal at Adams; Giancarlo Moreno, an orchestra teacher at Adams; Dr. Katheleen Balestracci, chair of the Board of Education (BOE); GPS teachers Kara Davis and Bruce Sumner; and the BOE as defendants.
“This action seeks redress for damages suffered as a result of the defendants’ concerted effort to punish the children of critics of the board, and to compel conformity with a divisive ideology,” according to the opening paragraph of the lawsuit. “The plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, and, as to individually named plaintiffs, punitive damages; it also seeks an award of attorney’s fees. The parents bring this action to assure the promise of equal justice for all, white, black, and otherwise.”
In a previous interview with the Courier, Maisano said that the plaintiffs were frustrated with what they characterized as the school administration’s “laziness.” They said they are targeting the school administration’s long history of disregarding parental concerns and being personally “being mocked” and “patronized.”
“What Paul [Freeman] does is attack us, discredit us. He’ll say we’re just angry parents, that we’re bitter about the election,” Maisano said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We are concerned parents. This is not about just my child, this is about all the children. The ideal outcome for us is for Paul Freeman to resign.”
According to the text of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are suing based on three violations of First Amendment rights, including retaliation, compelled speech, and religious discrimination. The suit also alleges discrimination in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, common-law negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Town officials and named defendants declined comment on the pending litigation.
In an August interview with the Courier, Freeman defended the district’s curriculum, noting that it follows all state mandates and expectations.
“Guilford public schools teaches a curriculum from K through 12 that is aligned with state standards and publicly approved by the Guilford Board of Education. We follow all state mandates and expectations,” Freeman said. “Unequivocally, I am proud of the curriculum that we teach in Guilford Public Schools, and there is nothing that is being done wrong, in violation of anything, or that is inappropriate for the students of Guilford.”
The BOE released a written statement on Sept. 13 in response to the lawsuit.
“We categorically reject the false assertions and personal attacks set forth in the complaint against the teachers, administrators, and Board members who serve the Guilford education community. Guilford Public Schools do not teach intolerance for differing perspectives as alleged. Rather, we teach students about the inherent worth of all persons and the need to promote equity and inclusion of all students irrespective of their race, religion, economic circumstances, or other factors. “Those lessons are informed by many different perspectives, and we strive to present an inclusive and balanced view of the challenges that different individuals confront as we prepare our students to be competent, knowledgeable, and contributing members of society. Any curriculum is subject to critique, and we remain open to hearing different perspectives. However, our curriculum teaches and reinforces based American values of tolerance, inquiry, and independent thought; and we will not be deterred in those efforts by this litigation,” the statement read in part.
The litigation has received financial support from Idaho-based We The Patriots, USA, a nonprofit organization whose self-described goal is to “create a powerful network of Patriots to preserve and reclaim our God-given inalienable rights.” The organization is raising funds for the lawsuit and similar litigation efforts across the country. At press time, We The Patriots, USA, had raised over $1,100 for the lawsuit.
Brian Festa, vice president and co-founder of We The Patriots, USA, released a statement on Sept. 7, voicing the support for the plaintiffs.
“It is almost unimaginable that in 21st Century America parents and their children could be so viciously attacked, both verbally and physically, simply for expressing an opinion that is unpopular, or contrary to the prevailing viewpoint of their school administration,” Festa said. “But the First Amendment was ratified precisely to protect that sort of speech. We wouldn’t need a First Amendment to protect speech that aligns with the controlling narrative, or is endorsed by government officials. We are prepared to take this lawsuit all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where we expect to win a victory for all parents who bravely continue to exercise their freedoms of religion and speech.”
The BOE is not expected to make additional public statements, citing the privacy of the students involved.
“(W)e will vigorously defend against the unwarranted attacks against our teachers, administrators, and Board members in the proper forum — federal court,” according to the BOE’s written statement.
As of press time, no court dates had been announced related to the filing.Press Release from Guilford Board of EducationLawsuit Text