RALEIGH, North Carolina (PNN) - July 31, 2019 - The company behind a controversial math curriculum being used in Wake County public schools has filed a lawsuit against a Cary parent, accusing him of "libel and slander" and "tortuous interference with business relations" after he criticized the program.
An attorney for the Utah-based Mathematics Vision Project, or MVP, said the company decided to sue parent Blain Dillard after he made "false statements" about the company. Dillard says he is "innocent of all allegations and can defend each and every point made in the summons."
MVP attorney Joseph Shapiro said the company "believes in and supports public discourse, especially relating to the education of our children. Society has, however, placed limits on public discourse. One of those limits is a restriction against false statements. MVP’s legal action against Mr. Dillard is an effort to preserve these boundaries and maintain the civility, dignity, and productiveness of public discourse."
The lawsuit claims Dillard "commenced a crusade against MVP" and “acted with reckless disregard” as he knowingly made false and defamatory statements with the intent to harm MVP's reputation. The company wants a jury trial and is seeking damages for Dillard’s "defamatory statements" and "intentional interference" with the company’s business.
Dillard has spoken at numerous Wake County Board of Education meetings and with the news media about his dislike of MVP, which he says caused his 10th grade son to go from being an A and B math student to failing the subject in a short time period.
In addition to his public comments, Dillard created a website, blog and Facebook group dedicated to sharing his criticisms of the program and the Wake County Public School System's use of it. He has also filed numerous public records requests to get information and has emailed math teachers in both Wake County and Utah to get their thoughts on the program.
In an email Tuesday, Dillard said MVP's lawsuit "is an attempt at intimidation and bullying to silence my and other parents' free speech advocating for our children's education." Dillard's supporters have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for his defense against MVP.
Karen Carter, another parent who has been critical of MVP, emailed local, state and national education leaders Tuesday to show support for Dillard.
"Is this the type of company WCPSS is comfortable being in business with? One that sues parents?" Carter wrote. "How can WCPSS parents and taxpayers be assured that their money, which WCPSS gave to MVP for various services, licensing fees, etc., isn't being used to sue one of our own citizens? Although WCPSS cannot control MVP'S actions, they can control giving more taxpayer money to them that can be used to go after one of the district's parents."
Lisa Luten, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, said the district learned of the lawsuit when a reporter called. She did not have any other information or comment to share.
Carter says she believes the company's lawsuit is a "blatant attempt to hush parents up across the nation if your district uses MVP."
"What have we come to when a curriculum developer is out there suing parents for voicing concerns?" she said.
The Wake County Board of Education has been reviewing an appeal from Carter, who has criticized the program and how the school system has handled complaints from her and others.
Board members discussed the appeal in closed session earlier this month. They plan to discuss it further and make a final decision on Aug. 6. After Tuesday's vote, board Chair Jim Martin said it's important to remember that board members do not make curriculum decisions, but they can determine whether their staff reviewed the curriculum and parents' complaints appropriately.
So far, 16 parents have filed formal complaints with the district about MVP math. But opponents of the program say many more parents have shared concerns on a Parents of MVP math students Facebook group, which has more than 1,400 members.
Wake school leaders say they hope to share more data about the program this fall, when new numbers come in. They also plan to have a separate, third party do an audit of the program this fall.