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Curriculum company sues parent who criticized its math program

A curriculum company is suing “one of the most vocal” critics of its math program, a parent from North Carolina who has blasted its use in his son’s school.

The Mathematics Vision Project accused Blain Dillard, whose son attends school in the Wake County school district, of “libel, slander, and ‘tortious interference with business relations,’” according to Education Week. MVP cited an instance where Dillard claimed online that improvements in math scores following use of its program were “fabricated or falsified,” in addition to “analysis of student achievement data” and “results of informal teacher polling” Dillard had made on blogs.

Dillard’s attorney Jeffrey Hunt said the lawsuit “has no legal merit.”

“The lawsuit appears to be an attempt to silence Mr. Dillard and other critics of MVP, and to chill their First Amendment rights to speak about MVP’s services,” Hunt said. He added that Dillard’s remarks about the MVP program were “truthful.”

Wake is beginning its third year with the MVP curriculum. The math program received a favorable review from EdReports.

From the story:

For months now, parents have spoken out against lessons that they say are confusing and poorly structured, lodging complaints with the district and making statements at school board meetings. Parents said their children weren’t getting enough direct instruction and were encouraged to rely on their classmates for help. As a result, they said, students who used to get As and Bs were now getting Cs and Ds, which would have long-lasting effects on their grade point averages and college prospects.

Barbara Kuehl, an author and consultant at MVP, said that the organization’s materials encourage a variety of methods. “Our curriculum not only supports well-timed direct instruction, we advocate for it,” she said. Kuehl declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation. …

From a business perspective, it’s “dicey” for providers to start suing parents, Loveless said. “They’re salespeople. They want to sell their product, and they want to sell it to school districts. If you’re suing parents, I don’t see how that would be productive.”

In a Facebook group that Dillard created for advocacy around MVP, parents in support of him have called the complaint a SLAPP lawsuit—a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

“Essentially, [a SLAPP suit] is just a meritless lawsuit that’s brought to try to silence, intimidate, or harass a critic,” said Evan Mascagni, the policy director of the Public Participation Project, an anti-SLAPP advocacy organization.

Mascagni added that companies “often bring” SLAPP suits to counter negative online customer reviews.

Education researcher Tom Loveless said if MVP prevails in the case, parents will begin to wonder just how far they can go in critiquing their children’s schoolwork without getting sued.

Read the article.

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