Round Rock ISD saga continues as school board meeting abruptly ended after outraged Trustees point out double-standard, demand resignations
ROUND ROCK, Texas — Outraged parents packed a crowded board room late Thursday night in a suburb of Austin and demanded accountability for current and former board members.
What they got, instead, was a double-standard. The board voted to expel a student while sordid accusations against the district’s superintendent remain.
“The path forward is now clearer than ever for us,” said Jeremy Story, one of the arrested Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) constituents and plaintiff in a lawsuit against the superintendent, the district, and five trustees. “The judge asked us to submit more facts and violations in the next two weeks. We will be filing more paperwork and expanding the scope of this case.”
The Aug. 10 RRISD meeting, with a closed session agenda item concerning the expulsion of a publicly unnamed student, was abruptly ended by Amber Feller, the board president and one of the defendants in the suit. Prior to gaveling out, fellow board member Mary Bone made an unsuccessful motion for the board to consider demanding the resignation of Amy Weir, former board president and current board secretary. See link below for video.
This came three weeks after a federal judge vindicated two RRISD parents and taxpayers who were forced out of school board meeting and later arrested in 2021.
Judge David Allen Ezra of the Western District of Texas Federal court ruled that Story’s lawsuit against current and former board members, Weir, Amber Landrum, Tiffany Harrison, Jun Xiao, and Cory Vessa, Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, as well as several district police officers, could proceed in the next steps towards trial.
In May of 2022 Story, a parent and a local pastor, sued the district, board members, superintendent and various district police after they catalyzed his arrest and jailing. Story claims they retaliated after he exposed the superintendent as having an affair and a protective order for family violence served to him secretly at district headquarters. Story also makes claims in his case five of the seven trustees conspired to illegally hire the Superintendent.
The district spent the last 14 months filing numerous attempts to dismiss Story’s case with around 400 pages of legal arguments. This latest ruling by Judge Ezra shot down the district’s hopes of having the case dismissed. Judge Ezra also asked Story to submit more facts by Aug. 26 so that Ezra may determine if additional board members or police may be included in proceeding towards trial.
Judge Ezra stated in his decision:
“Story, however, has alleged facts sufficient to state a claim that he was engaged in constitutionally protected speech. An arrest would certainly chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in the protected activity … And Story has alleged that his arrest was substantially motivated by his speech to the Board … Thus, the Court finds that Story has stated a First Amendment retaliation claim.”
Ezra ruled Story had shown colorable First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations as well as Open Meetings Act violations that could proceed toward trial. Ezra allowed Story’s claims against the defendants as individuals in addition to their official capacity to head towards trial. Bone, a board member not named in the suit, revealed at the previous board meeting she had discovered the defendant trustees had signed secretive agreements with the district to pay for their defense as individuals with district tax dollars. Bone said this didn’t follow standard practice of other districts and may violate state law.
Near the end of the Aug. 10 board meeting, Bone made a detailed motion:
“In response to federal judge’s David Allen Ezra’s order which implicates an embroils Amy Weir as an individual not in her official capacity and who at the time was a Texas Bar-licensed attorney including first and fourth amendment [violations] plus violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act … also due to her utilization of public funds to pay for individual representation without board approval. Due to these actions the board believes Amy Weir cannot place the best interests of the district and students above her individual issues that the board add an agenda item to formally request that Amy Weir resigns from her place on the Round Rock board of trustees and pay back all public funds expended on the federal case for her individual benefit.“
Bone’s motion was voted down 5-2, including votes from Trustees Landrum and Harrison, allies of Weir. Story’s lawsuit claims that Trustees Landrum, Weir, Harrison, Xiao, and Vessa conspired together to unlawfully hire Azaiez, conceal his misdeeds, and arrest Story.
As an unusual maneuver, the board meeting was moved in and out of closed session in an attempt to utilize the board lawyer Valerie Carrillo — possibly a tactic to prevent Bone from making her motion.
Trustee Danielle Weston also objected to the ending of the meeting but was ignored by board President Feller as she walked off the dais.
“We view this decision as strong affirmation of the legal viability of our claims,” Story said. “The school district’s attempts to dismiss our claims and sweep them under the ‘legal rug’ have failed. What is at stake is the basic right to free speech without fear of government retaliation. I was arrested and jailed for exposing the misdeeds of trustees and administrators. Are we heading down the path of despotism or continued freedom as a country? Despite the superintendent and certain board members’ attempts to confuse and deceive the public this ruling shows our legal claims against them are indeed viable.”
“Mr. Story and Mr. Clark are deserving of their day in court,” said Christie Slape, chair of the Williamson County Moms for Liberty chapter. “Their parental rights were violated by Amy Weir and the RRISD Board majority. As a direct result, speech from equally concerned parents was chilled for fear of retaliation and arrest. May justice prevail so that the Round Rock Independent School District can get back to the business of educating children.”
Story published text messages given to him by a mistress of Superintendent Azaiez in summer of 2021. They showed how Azaiez allegedly tried to coerce the mistress, a local principal, to get an abortion after she became pregnant. Story was later forcefully pulled off the speaking stand by RRISD police while making a public comment during a board meeting at the exact moment he mentioned the protective order against the superintendent. One day after Story filed a written complaint against the district, he was arrested at his home. Story alleges the defendant board members illegally hired the superintendent through secret discussions outside of board meetings and then covered up his wrongdoing. The mistress went to the school board for help after Azaiez’s alleged threats. Story alleges board members facilitated an assault when they ignored the mistress and instead tipped off the Azaiez about his mistress’ pleas for help. The mistress filed a police report alleging that she had been beaten by the superintendent the same day some board members secretly told the superintendent.
Relevant documents and video clips related to the board meeting and Story’s arrest can be found here:
Official full length video of the board meeting can be found on the district’s website here:
Story may be reached for further comment or interview at (929) 900-6867 and via email at [email protected].
Further details and the ability for readers to make a tax-deductible donation to Story’s legal fund may be found at www.riseforstudents.org.