Math Curriculum Company Drops Defamation Suit Against N.C. Parent

By Sarah Schwartz — October 31, 2019 2 min read
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This summer, a math curriculum provider made a surprising move against one of its most vocal parent critics—the company sued him for defamation and interference with business relations.

Now, after three months, the company has dropped its lawsuit.

Mathematics Vision Project, a Utah-based provider of open-source math curricula, and the parent, Blain Dillard, released a joint statement about the lawsuit’s dismissal this week. Dillard also dismissed his countersuit against the company, which was for lawyers’ fees and damages.

Parents rallying against curriculum isn’t anything new. But had Mathematics Vision Project pursued the case and won, some observers said, it could have had broad implications for parent advocacy around their children’s instruction.

"[It] would certainly cast a shadow on the idea that parents have a right to participate in their own children’s education, to criticize schools for buying particular textbooks, to voice their concerns about instruction and curriculum,” Tom Loveless, an education researcher formerly at the Brookings Institution, told Education Week in September. Loveless was not involved in the case.

See also: Meet the Moms Pushing for a Reading Overhaul in Their District

The provider’s original lawsuit was filed after months of vocal criticism from parents in Wake County, N.C., who were opposed to the school district’s adoption of the curriculum because they thought the lessons were confusing and didn’t give their children enough direct instruction.

Dillard, whose son attends high school in Wake County, started a blog campaigning against the curriculum. He posted his own analyses of district math achievement data, in which he claimed that Wake County was losing their performance lead in comparison to the state. He also conducted informal polls with district staff members, and posted teacher feedback.

In their now-dismissed suit, Mathematics Vision Project claimed that Dillard had made false statements on his blog and in person that had harmed the company’s business interests. The company cites, among other instances, a statement Dillard made to the school board, in which he said students’ achievement data while using the program had been “proven to have been exaggerated or in some cases possibly even fabricated.”

But Dillard and his lawyers argued that the suit was an attempt to silence critics with no legal merit. His statements could reasonably be interpreted as opinions, his countersuit claimed, and as such, couldn’t be defamatory.

As of now, Dillard’s blog is still active. His joint statement with the company notes that their resolution “involves no restriction or limitation on the ability of either MVP or Mr. Dillard to speak and comment publicly about math curricula and other issues of public concern to the educational community.”

“While I am allowed to continue to speak and comment publicly about math curricula, I am restricted on commenting about the case and therefore have no further comment about it,” Dillard said, in an emailed statement.

Wake County schools is in its third year using Mathematics Vision Project. In response to formal parent complaints, the district has hired an external third party to conduct a review of the curriculum, which includes conducting parent experience surveys, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

Image: Getty

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.