School board president sued, accused of ‘tyranny’ for silencing and ejecting parents from meetings

Fights over what parents can say during school board meetings – or whether they can say anything at all – are becoming commonplace. 

Some parents, feeling unfairly and even unlawfully silenced, are taking legal action.  

In one of the latest and most dramatic instances, the school board president was served with a lawsuit during the public comment period of a school board meeting

“Your outrageous display of tyranny in how you trampled on the rights of the public at the last meeting was shocking,” civil rights attorney Paul Davis told board president Amy Dankel at last Tuesday’s meeting. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Davis was referring to several recent school board meetings in which Dankel ejected parents and citizens for failing to observe her rules.

These rules, Davis said, “placed an unconstitutional restraint on First Amendment rights by disallowing signs, clapping and comments.”

Davis also claimed that Dankel did not enforce the rules equally, favoring her own supporters.

For example, at one meeting Dankel required the police to remove anyone wearing green, supporters of conservative board member Chad Green, with whom Dankel has sparred.

“Those same rules were not applied to people wearing blue [Dankel supporters],” Davis said. “For that, we have filed a civil rights lawsuit against you.”

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Kevin Whitt, spoke out against sexually explicit materials found in the school libraries. 

Later in the meeting, Dankel had him dragged out by law enforcement officers for saying one word – “disgusting” – after another citizen shared excerpts from one of the sexually explicit books in question.

At a subsequent meeting, Whitt and Samuel Hall, who also spoke out at the previous meeting, were blocked from entering the building and forced to leave school property by police. If they did not leave, they were told they would be arrested on criminal trespassing charges.

This lawsuit follows another recently filed on behalf of two Texas fathers arrested for criticizing Round Rock ISD Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez during two meetings last year. Azaiez had previously been accused of assault and trying to force his mistress to abort their baby. 

The two fathers, Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark, were kicked out of the building when they addressed the allegations of his misconduct during the meetings.

Just a few days after the second meeting in September, Story and Clark were both arrested on disorderly conduct charges.

In their lawsuit, the fathers claim that the district violated their rights to petition the government for redress and violated their rights to exercise free speech without retaliation.

In a statement to Texas Scorecard, Story condemned the board’s five trustees for their actions.

“This case involves and affects both Dustin and I, but it isn’t just about us,” he said. “We hope to stop the chilling of freedom of speech and the right to petition your government caused by several members of the RRISD school board’s rogue actions.”

Story also said he hoped the lawsuit would “set a precedent that will also stop similar actions occurring across Texas and America.”