Nashville charter school network RePublic to pay $ 2.2 million to settle lawsuit over ‘spam’ text messages



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A Nashville-based charter school network has agreed to pay $ 2.2 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by parents who objected to a series of mass text messages they received from the organization at charter promoting enrollment in its schools.

Nashville Public Schools announced the settlement agreement in a statement Friday night that made it clear they did not accept fault. The school’s insurance policy would cover the full amount plus RePublic’s attorney fees, the school said, and no tax money would go towards the settlement.

The settlement – which would bring financial relief to 5,319 parents at Metro schools – comes amid an ongoing debate over the district’s sharing of student data and contact details with publicly funded private charters.

RePublic has agreed to stop texting parents at Metro School without permission.

“We are happy to announce this settlement and put this issue behind us,” RePublic CEO Jon Rybka said in a statement. “The trial was a distraction from our mission to provide the best possible education for all children in Nashville, regardless of their socio-economic background or zip code.

“These regulations now allow us to refocus our resources on what matters most: our schools and our students. RePublic remains committed to reinventing public education in the South, and we look forward to another year of transformative results for our students.

â–º More: Nashville charter school network sued over text messages

The lawsuit against RePublic, originally filed in January 2016, alleged that RePublic violated federal consumer protection law by sending messages through a commercial autodialing service without the recipients’ consent. He claimed parents received the first round of mass text messages on phones on November 16, 2015, and three more payments were made through January 2016.

A text message read, “Parents in 4th grade, your child is eligible to attend the Nashville Academy of Computer Science next year. Please call us at 615-873-0484 to visit our facilities!

The lawsuit, which called the text messages “spam,” took a significant turn in March when US District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw granted class action status to the plaintiffs.

The Nashville-based law firm representing the parents, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, had asked for up to $ 12 million in aid, $ 500 per text or $ 1,500 per person.

“The plaintiffs are very pleased with the settlement, which, if approved by the court, will result in one of the largest recoveries ever recorded by any class member in a text messaging spam lawsuit,” said lawyer Gerard Stranch in an emailed statement. “It is also important that RePublic Schools Nashville has agreed to stop texting MNPS parents and guardians without first obtaining their express consent.”

â–º More: Nashville School Text Spam Case Becomes Class Action

In recent weeks, Metro Nashville and Memphis school boards have each resisted passing data on to the state-run Achievement School District, which operates charter schools in both cities. But Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an advisory this week saying local school districts must turn over the data to ASD.

Local councils argued that the federal school records law allows for the release of these records, but does not require it.

Metro Nashville Public Schools do not have a policy restricting the sharing of student contact information to charter schools authorized by the local board.

“The RePublic lawsuit underscores, in real time, why MNPS has long had to take control of student and family data security,” said Will Pinkston, school board member and charter schools critic who has been pronounced on the question of data. “As the source of the data, we could very easily have become defendants in this case. I am glad that the plaintiffs have chosen to focus their litigation on the main offender, but that does not alleviate our obligation to do better in the future. “

RePublic was founded in 2011 by Ravi Gupta, who left the chartered organization to return to his hometown of New York in 2017.

RePublic operates four schools in Nashville: Nashville Prep, Liberty Collegiate, Nashville Academy of Computer Science, and RePublic High School. The charter group also operates two schools in Jackson, Mississippi.

Editor-in-chief Jason Gonzales contributed to this report. Contact Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236, and on Twitter @joeygarrison.



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