School boards have always attracted their share of controversies: disagreements over curriculum, bitter election fights, and personality clashes. But in recent months, as parents express their frustration over COVID lockdowns, mask mandates and critical race theory, local school districts and federal law enforcement have upped the ante by monitoring parents, requesting undercover agents at school board meetings, and even arresting parents who attend board meetings to express dissent.
The latest and most egregious example comes from Round Rock, Texas. In a series of school board meetings this fall, two fathers — a minister named Jeremy Story and a retired Army captain named Dustin Clark — spoke out against alleged corruption and school officials’ hostility toward parents.
Journalist Pedro Gonzalez reported that at an August meeting, Story had calmly “produced evidence that the board had covered up an alleged assault by the superintendent, Hafedh Azaiez, against a mistress.” The superintendent and school board president cut him off midsentence and ordered officers to remove him from the premises.
At the next meeting, in September, with the district’s controversial mask mandate on the agenda, the school board locked the majority of parents out of the room, preventing them from speaking. Clark and other frustrated parents asked the board to open the nearly empty room to the public. Instead, 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!”
A few days later, the school district, in coordination with law enforcement, sent police officers to the homes of both men, arrested them, and put them in jail on charges of “disorderly conduct with intent to disrupt a meeting.”
Families and supporters of Story and Clark held an all-night protest outside the jail, until the men were released the following morning. They are now raising funds for their legal defense.