Texas dads arrested after getting vocal at school board meetings say superintendent aims to 'silence' them
Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark removed from meetings of the Round Rock ISD school board
Round Rock ISD police remove Jeremy Story from a school board meeting on Aug. 16. On Sept. 14, Round Rock ISD police remove Dustin Clark from a school board meeting. Both were later arrested and claim the school district is trying to silence them
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.”
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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.
Jeremy Story getting escorted out of a Round Rock ISD school board meeting.
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.
School board responds
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 restraining order 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 restraining order, 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.
Hafedh Azaiez was hired by Round Rock ISD for the job of schools superintendent.
(Round Rock ISD)
Azaiez “has not been contacted by the Travis County Sheriff’s Department regarding any investigation,” LaCoste-Caputo told Fox News.
Warned to stay on topic
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 that was not on the agenda for a called board meeting,” Weir told Fox News in a statement. “He was informed several times by the board president and refused to comply with the rules, which is why he was eventually escorted out.”
In the Sept. 14 school board meeting, two members of the school board – Weston and Bone – claimed the school district violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by severely restricting available seating. According to photos that Jeremy Story provided to Fox News, the school district set up only 18 seats in the meeting. Round Rock ISD reportedly stationed police officers at the doors to prevent members of the public from entering.
Round Rock ISD school board seating. (Jeremy Story)
“The Texas Open Meetings Act states that the public must have full access to board meetings,” Weston told Fox News. “I peacefully left the 14 Sep 2021 RRISD board meeting because the school police were used to prevent members of the public from entering our meeting.”
‘Let us in!’
She noted that the district allowed only 18 members of the public in, although the room “accommodates 300.”
“Let us in!,” the crowd outside the meeting shouted, after Weston and Bone walked out in protest.
At that point, Dustin Clark raised objections.
“Why won’t you let the public in?” Clark asked. “There are all these chairs in here, you’re not letting the public in. Why?”
Board members gave Clark a warning, then continued with the meeting, discussing an increase in the tax rate.
At this point, Clark objected again.
“You’re making a decision without the public’s knowledge,” he said.
Weir directed Assistant Chief of Police Jim Williby to remove Clark.
“Communists! Let the public in!” Clark shouted, as Williby escorted him out.
“The superintendent was using school district police to keep community members out of the meeting while talking about raising their property taxes,” Clark told Fox News regarding the incident. “I asked the board to stop the meeting and let the people in. My arrest seems to be a clear tactic to silence me and other community members.”
“The superintendent was using school district police to keep community members out of the meeting while talking about raising their property taxes.”
“Mr. Clark came into the board room after seating capacity limits had been met, and was escorted out after he continued to shout at board members and other attendees, interrupting the board’s discussion and a public speaker whose turn it was to address the board,” Weir told Fox News regarding the incident.
LaCoste-Caputo noted that the district had an overflow room from which members of the public could watch the proceedings on a screen.
The board president claimed that both Story and Clark “violated the Texas penal code related to meetings of elected government officials.”
From left: Texas Land Commissioner candidate Weston Martinez, Jeremy Story, Dustin Clark, gubernatorial candidate Don Huffines.
Story, meanwhile, had attempted to get into the Sept. 14 meeting, trying to skirt the officers at the doors. According to Story, the officers pinned him against the door jamb, and he suffered a bleeding abrasion on his back. He reported the incident to Round Rock City Police, and he said police were en route when the school board abruptly concluded the meeting.
Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks confirmed Story’s account in an interview with Fox News.
On Sept. 17, after Story had filed his report, a Round Rock ISD police officer filed the probable-cause affidavit leading to the arrests of both Clark and Story.
“Our understanding is the RRISD Police Department contacted the Williamson County Attorney’s Office and submitted an affidavit to a judge,” Rebecca Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, told Fox News. “A judge issued a valid arrest warrant for both individuals. The Sheriff’s Office was notified that the individuals would most likely return to the next meeting causing a similar disruption hindering the proceeding. Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies were notified of the warrants, located the individuals, took them into custody and booked them into jail.”
No court dates
Rodriguez confirmed that the fathers were booked in jail on Sept. 17.
Both fathers were released the following morning and the sheriff’s office did not detain them before or after any subsequent school board meetings.
Story and Clark told Fox News that despite the arrest in September, they have yet to receive a court date in the case. Deck told Fox News that the county attorney’s office has not yet decided whether to keep pursuing the charges.
The crowd at a fundraiser for Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark.
The county attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.
Story and Clark told Fox News they’re planning a civil rights lawsuit against the school district and members of the school board. They held a fundraiser for that effort this past Saturday, drawing more than 250 people.
The event featured Weston Martinez, a candidate for Texas land commissioner, and three Texas gubernatorial candidates: Dan Huffines, Allen West and Chad Prather. According to the online fundraiser, Story and Clark had raised $31,000 toward an $80,000 goal as of Wednesday morning.
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