Do school boards want to make people mad enough to hurt them? This is how to do it:
The Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) in Texas is using its own armed agents to arrest parents who speak out against the school board’s policies, according to Christopher Rufo in the City Journal.
Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said:
‘The battle lines are clear: on one side, the Biden administration, public school bureaucrats, and their armed agents; on the other, parents and families who oppose school closures, mask mandates, critical race theory and corruption. Public school officials have demonstrated a willingness to use police power to silence and intimidate their opponents.
Two fathers, Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark, had spoken out against the school board’s ‘alleged corruption and school officials’ hostility toward parents.’ In August, while ‘produc[ing] evidence that the board had covered up an alleged assault by the superintendent, Hafedh Azaiez, against a mistress,’ Story, a minister, was cut off midsentence as Azaiez ordered armed officers to remove him from the premises, according to Chronicles Magazine.’
I’m sure Azaiez didn’t do that because he was guilty of assaulting his mistress or anything like that. School superintendents, after all, are superior beings, scrupulously honest, honorable, and absolutely dedicated to public service.
At issue in the next meeting was the district’s mask mandate. For this, Clark, a retired Army captain, and other parents sought to speak, but instead, the school board ‘locked the majority of parents out of the room, preventing them from speaking.’ According to Rufo, while the parents were asking the school board to open the room for public comment on a major policy item, ‘school board president Amy Weir directed officers to remove Clark from school property.’
‘As he was dragged out by two officers, Clark shouted to the audience: ‘It’s an open meeting! Shame on you. Communist! Communist! Let the public in!’ Rufo explained.
A spokesperson for Round Rock ISD says the two men were charged for their actions this week ‘as well as previous meetings.’ She noted there is still an active investigation into the incidents.
Hmmm. What seems to be missing here is any evidence of actual criminal conduct.
‘There were concerns over disruptive behavior that created a potentially threatening environment for students, staff and community members present and hindered official proceedings,’ said RRISD spokesperson Jenny LaCoste-Caputo in an email to KXAN.
Ooooooo! “[H]indered official proceedings.” “Official!” Damn you peasants, we’re official! In all my years in law enforcement, I never arrested anyone for being “potentially” threatening. I stuck to that antiquated probable cause standard, which pretty much required actual acts rather than potential acts people actually do something that constituted a crime rather than being “potential.”
When KXAN interviewed both Story and Clark Saturday morning after they were released from the Williamson County Jail they said they disagreed with that statement. They instead feel as though the board were the ones creating a threatening environment and that they were being targeted for reacting.
They have hired a lawyer but say they’re really just asking that the school board allows more access during meetings.
‘I know that educators work hard, and they’re so sacrificial, and there’s so much that they do and so we’re not angry, we just feel our civil rights have been violated,’ Story said.
So do I. In Texas, school districts are allowed to have their own police forces, though it was the local sheriff’s office that arrested Story and Clark.
According to Rufo, many parents believe the school board is trying to send a message: ‘if you speak out against us, we will turn you into criminals.’
Golly, I wonder where Rufo got that idea? Perhaps from this sort of behavior:
But these tactics are not unique to RRISD, explained Rufo:
In Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, where parents have protested against critical race theory and a sexual assault cover-up, the superintendent asked the county sheriff to deploy a SWAT team, riot control unit, and undercover agents to monitor parents at school board meetings.
The Loudoun sheriff did not comply with the superintendent’s request, saying the board had not given ‘any justification for such a manpower-intensive request.’
Which is exactly what the local sheriff’s office should have done in Round Rock.
Story and Clark believe what they have gone through has implications beyond RRISD, with Story saying, ‘This isn’t just about Dustin [Clark] and me. It is about everyone. If they can come for us and get away with it, school boards nationwide will be emboldened to come for you.’
Yes. Yes they will.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the fact that school board members are elected by the public to represent their interests. They are public employees. While school boards certainly have limited power to regulate public meetings, they do not have the power to deny citizens their First Amendment rights, or to ignore or punish their employers, their bosses. The law in such matters is clear:
From Judge Gene Pratter’s  opinion today in Marshall v. Amuso (E.D. Pa.)
‘The First Amendment protections for free speech apply to speaking at public school board meetings. The parties agree that a school board meeting is a limited public forum. In a limited public forum, ‘[c]ontent-based restrictions are valid as long as they are reasonable and viewpoint neutral.’ However, ‘viewpoint discrimination is impermissible in any forum.’ …
The School Board personnel interrupted and terminated comments deemed ‘personally directed’ as violations of Policy 903. As Policy 903 is applied (and as confirmed by the Board’s witnesses and counsel at the preliminary injunction hearing), positive and complimentary personally-directed comments supportive of Board and school employees are permitted to be expressed, but negative, challenging, or critical personally-directed comments are prohibited. Likewise, those who express support for a decision by singling out a School Board member are welcome, but those who criticize a decision are cut off. This is viewpoint discrimination regardless of whether speakers are at other times allowed to make a verbal personal attack.’
By all means, take the link and read the entire article. The particular Pennsylvania school board involved demanded citizens dox themselves, give their address and affiliations before speaking. This was, of course, on purpose, a means of chilling speech.
Essentially, school boards may establish reasonable, viewpoint neutral rules for meetings, but they are not immune from pointed, even angry or potentially offensive comments directed at boards as a whole, or board members in general. If they can’t take the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen. They may not exclude the public from public meetings. Obviously, this would also preclude arrests for First Amendment expression.
Something the Round Rock School Board, and many others around the nation, are forgetting is school board elections are commonly won or lost by a handful of votes, even by single votes. School board members have to live and work in their communities. Membership on a school board does not bestow dictatorial powers, nor does it bestow immunity from criticism. Are these people so stupid as not to realize parents get very angry, very protective, when someone is messing with their kids?
One would hope whatever judge gets this case—why the hell did they authorize warrants in the first place?—is far better versed in the Constitution than the local sheriff’s office, and certain, better versed than the School Board.
Perhaps citizens should take a page from the playbook of leftist agitators and spend some time in peaceful, but colorful, protest outside the homes and workplaces of the Superintendent and school board members? No violence, no trespassing, no breaking the law in general, just peaceably assembling and petitioning government for redress of grievances, just a constant reminder there are consequences, beyond being thrown out of office at the next election, for breaking faith with the public.
Texas law is, unfortunately, pretty stringent. It’s difficult to sue school officials under most circumstances. However, this sort of behavior might well encourage the legislature to change the law. But even with those limits in place, school board members are not immune from public anger and outrage, and again, they have to live in their communities.
This is the kind of imperious, arrogant behavior that so angers Americans, who continue to have the silly idea the people they elect to represent their interests are their employees and ought to actually represent their interests.
Perhaps it would be best that people unable or unwilling to calmly speak with and listen to the public, people unwilling to be open and honest, to do the right thing, to reassure the public their concerns are heard and will be fairly considered, should not run for school boards? Just a thought.