The Carroll Independent School District Board and five of the trustees were sued by a Southlake resident earlier this week for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The petition asks the Tarrant County district court to enjoin the board from any further violations and to remedy past violations by declaring void any actions taken in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
“Ultimately, Ms. Garcia wants to shed Texas sunshine on the hidden machinations of five School Board Trustees,” the lawsuit states.
Proceedings in the suit will take place in the 236th District Court with Judge Tom Lowe presiding.
The suit is brought by Plaintiff Kristen Garcia against Board President Michelle Moore and trustees Sheri Mills, Todd Carlton, Danny Gilpin, and Dave Almand. The members were served with the lawsuit during a specially called board meeting to discuss the ongoing superintendent search on September 3.
The lawsuit accuses the board members of violating the act by engaging in a so-called walking quorum “to deliberate over how to proceed with the controversial [Cultural Competence Action] Plan in the face of this groundswell of opposition.”
An open records request revealed text messages among the five named board members discussing the plan and how to explain to the public what approving the plan would mean.
The plan has raised concerns among citizens in the district because of such elements as its diversity and inclusion training for students as part of the graduation process and a system to track microaggressions, which the document defines as, “everyday verbal or nonverbal, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized or underrepresented group membership.”
According to the Attorney General’s Handbook, the Open Meetings Act “was adopted to help make governmental decision-making accessible to the public.”
“Amended section 551.143 [of the Open Meetings Act] now prohibits discussion about an item of public business among a quorum of a governmental body through a series of communications.” The new amendments were adopted in 2019.
Texas Values, a conservative advocacy group, issued a statement in support of the lawsuit and also filed a Public Information Act request to the school district asking for documents related to the Cultural Competence Action Plan and its formulation.
“Carroll I.S.D. is focusing more on politics than education, and parents have a right to know what’s really been going on behind the scenes. If they refuse to be transparent that’s simply more reason why this tainted LGBT “cultural” plan needs to be shut down,” said Jonathan Covey, policy director for Texas Values.
When asked if they were funding the lawsuit, Covey responded, “The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a parent named Kristen Garcia. Texas Values is fully supportive of this effort in this lawsuit.”
The case was filed by attorneys Jonathan Mitchell in Austin and Dustin Fillmore in Fort Worth.
Open Meetings Act violations can carry criminal consequences of a fine of between $100 and $500, confinement in the county jail of between one and six months, or both. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office told The Texan that they can not speak on pending matters or investigations, but that they do not “have any cases filed on this matter.”
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.