Two Texas fathers who got arrested for allegedly disturbing meetings of the Round Rock Independent School District school board told Fox News they ultimately blame the school board and Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez for the arrests.
The fathers characterized the actions as an effort to "intimidate" them into silence. The school board president disputed their claims.
"I believe I was arrested on 9/17/21 to intimidate me and other parents and community members from continuing to speak out against the superintendent and five of the school board members," Dustin Clark, a father of four children in public schools who began speaking out at school board meetings virtually in April, told Fox News.
"We believe we were intentionally targeted for arrest to silence our voices because we were speaking out against the school district for illegal activity," Jeremy Story, a father of seven homeschooled children and a resident whose tax dollars go to support the school district, told Fox News.
"We believe we were intentionally targeted for arrest to silence our voices because we were speaking out against the school district for illegal activity."
FORT WORTH SCHOOL BOARD RACIAL EQUITY COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR OWNS UP TO ATTACKS ON PARENTS
The Williamson County Sheriff's Office arrested Clark and Story simultaneously around 5 p.m. Sept. 17, according to the fathers. Ryan Deck, the fathers' defense attorney, told Fox News that while the sheriff's office carried out the arrest, the school district's separate police department filled out the probable-cause affidavit leading to the arrest.
Both Clark and Story face a misdemeanor charge of "Hinder Proceedings by Disorderly Conduct," but the charges name different dates. The charge against Story traces back to an Aug. 16 board meeting while the charge against Clark traces to Sept. 14.
Amy Weir, president of the Round Rock ISD school board, told Fox News that "there has never been an attempt to silence Mr. Story." She also noted that Clark has "spoken at nearly every board meeting since that September meeting without incident and without interruption."
Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokeswoman for the school district, told Fox News, "At no time were speakers not allowed to speak in accordance with state law and board policy at a Round Rock ISD board meeting."
While Clark initially started speaking at board meetings to oppose mask mandates in schools, both he and Story expressed concerns about Hafedh Azaiez, a candidate the school board was considering for superintendent. Despite their concerns and those of two members of the school board, the five other school board members voted to hire Azaiez rather than wait to investigate him.
"We uncovered a video where he had used the police in his former district to silence a 68-year-old grandmother," Story told Fox News, referring to a June 14 video of police officers delivering a trespass warning to Raquel Gonzales Martinez, an order barring her from setting foot on school grounds for two years.
"At no time were speakers not allowed to speak in accordance with state law and board policy at a Round Rock ISD board meeting."
When asked about the trespass warning, Martinez told Fox News she "caught an employee meeting with the board president and a board member," a meeting she described as corrupt. The Donna ISD and LaCoste-Caputo declined to comment on the incident.
Story also cited an ongoing domestic case involving Azaiez. While LaCoste-Caputo said Azaiez does not currently face criminal charges, the Travis County Sheriff's Office has confirmed it has an active investigation into Azaiez for alleged assault.
Azaiez "has not been contacted by the Travis County Sheriff's Department regarding any investigation," LaCoste-Caputo told Fox News.
According to publicly available footage of the board meeting, when Weir invited Story to the podium to speak, she began by warning him not to talk about "something other than D1 or D2," the resolutions on the agenda for that special called meeting.
Story responded: "I will show you how what I'm about to comment on is related to that."
She twice interrupted him, at one point saying, "No, I do not want you to demonstrate …" However, she agreed to let him speak after he asked, "Are you saying you don't want to hear me?"
Weir allowed Story to speak, but as soon as he said, "Our superintendent has a protective order…" she nodded to Round Rock ISD police, who escorted Story out of the building.
"Mr. Story was escorted out when he attempted to speak to an issue that was not on the agenda for a called board meeting."
Weir said Story had submitted a request to speak about "2 or something else – unlike the Board, citizens are not required to speak on items only on the agenda."
Story admitted sending the note, but he insisted that he did not refuse to address the meeting topics.
"Mr. Story was escorted out when he attempted to speak to an issue... (Read more)
Submitted 44 days ago