Education

Company drops lawsuit against parent who has led opposition to Wake’s math curriculum

The provider of Wake County’s controversial high school math curriculum had dropped its lawsuit against a Cary parent who is leading the fight to get the program dropped from the district’s schools.

The Mathematics Vision Project had filed a lawsuit in July in a Utah state court accusing Blain Dillard of making false and defamatory statements about the MVP Math program that the company says harmed its business. Dillard had responded with his own countersuit, charging that MVP was trying to chill free speech rights.

In a joint settlement released Tuesday, both parties said that they had agreed to dismiss their lawsuits.

“Resolution of the parties’ dispute 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,” according to the joint statement.

Dillard is still trying to recoup his legal fees that he’s paid fighting the case. A GoFundMe page, https://bit.ly/2JxOOYX, has raised more than $16,000 for his legal defense.

The lawsuit was part of the contentious fight that has seen parents and students hold school walkouts and protests and speak at Wake County school board meetings. They’ve also launched an aggressive social media campaign to try to get Wake to abandon MVP Math.

Since the 2017-18 school year, Wake has used materials from the Mathematics Vision Project to teach high school-level math based on Common Core standards. Instead of hearing a lecture and memorizing formulas, the focus has shifted to students working in groups to solve problems while teachers act as facilitators.

Critics charge that the format doesn’t teach the materials, resulting in students coming out of the class struggling to understand what they would have mastered from a more traditional math course. They say it’s forced families to pay for private tutors to help their children learn the material.

The school board voted Aug. 6 to uphold a recommendation from a district review committee to continue using MVP. The district is making changes this school year that it says will improve how the classes are taught.

School officials have said they did not know ahead of time that MVP was planning to sue Dillard.

As part of the campaign, Dillard, whose children attend Green Hope High School in Cary, created a Facebook group and blog to list his objections with MVP.

In the lawsuit, MVP cited the statements made by Dillard at school board meetings, in news interviews and on social media. The company accused Dillard of making statements they say are false such as that students are “drowning in math chaos Hell” and that reports of math improvement had been “falsified.”

In legal filings, Dillard’s attorney argued that the statements cited by MVP are “nonactionable opinion based on disclosed facts, satire or parody, and rhetorical hyperbole” that were “made during the course of a robust debate during which opposing parties are expected to express strong and divergent views.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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