Wake County Schools

Wake parent countersues MVP math after company sues him for libel and slander

Posted September 11, 2019

— A Cary parent who is being sued for libel and slander for criticizing a controversial math curriculum that's being used in the Wake County Public School System has filed a countersuit against the Utah-based company, Mathematics Vision Project, also known as MVP. 

Blain Dillard, a father of three, is asking that MVP pay his attorney's fees and damages, anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000. In a statement provided Tuesday, an attorney for Dillard said, "It is alarming that a parent would be sued for defamation for expressing opinions and making truthful statements about his son’s high school math curriculum."

"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," Dillard's attorney, Jeffrey Hunt, wrote. "We believe the lawsuit has no legal merit and we intend to vigorously defend the right of Mr. Dillard, as well as other parents, to have a voice in the education of their children."

MVP announced in July that it was suing Dillard and accused him of commencing a crusade against the company and acting with reckless disregard by knowingly making false and defamatory statements with the intent to harm MVP's reputation. The lawsuit accuses him of libel and slander and tortious interference with business relations. The company wants a jury trial and is seeking damages. 

Dillard has said he is "innocent of all allegations and can defend each and every point made in the summons." Friends and supporters of Dillard have created a website to share court documents and updates about the lawsuit. They also created a GoFundMe account to raise money for his legal defense. As of Wednesday, they had raised more than $13,000 of their $20,000 goal.

Sandy Joiner, a fellow Wake County parent who is also opposed to MVP math, emailed members of the media Tuesday with the update about Dillard's defense and said the legal response filed by his attorney provides "significant comments regarding Blain's defense."

"We encourage you to read each and every word of it," she wrote.

MVP's curriculum, which Wake schools began using in 2017-18, encourages students to work together to solve problems instead of providing direct instruction from teachers. Dillard has spoken at numerous Wake County Board of Education meetings and with the news media about his dislike of the curriculum, 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.

Last month, Dillard walked up to the microphone during public comment at the Wake school board meeting, placed tape over his mouth and held up signs about the first amendment and said he doesn't want to be sued again.

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 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 July, 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 Wake County school system has invested more than $1.4 million in MVP math since the program launched and plans to spend up to $125,000 more for an outside review of the curriculum this fall. Board of education members have stood by the curriculum but said more can be done to enhance communication between schools, teachers, students and parents.

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 1,700 members.