EducationLocal NewsRound Rock Residents Sue School Board Trustees Over Speech Rules

The plaintiffs say the school board's seating rules and requirement that public comment be germane violate the Constitution.
May 13, 2022
Two Round Rock Independent School District (ISD) residents, whose opposition to mask mandates and the current superintendent launched them into the news, have sued five trustees and several district police officers, claiming they violated their First Amendment rights.

Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark were both arrested by county police but quickly released following their attempts to speak at a chaotic September school board meeting. Previously, Story had also been escorted out of an August board meeting by Round Rock ISD police for making remarks deemed not germane to the meeting topic.

The lawsuit seeks a court order that would prevent the trustees and police from enforcing the speech rules at board meetings that establish limited seating and prohibit speaking on non-germane topics. The plaintiffs also seek an order stopping the district from expending taxes based on the rate it set at the September 12 meeting where public participation was allegedly limited in violation of the Constitution.

Trustees Amber Feller, Tiffanie Harrison, Amy Weir, Jun Xiao, and Cory Vessa are the defendants named in the lawsuit, along with Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez. The other two trustees, Danielle Weston and Mary Bone, left the September meeting in protest of the board’s speech rules. Weston and Bone also consistently part from the other five on policy positions, such as mask mandates.

Story and Clark say Azaiez and the five trustees used COVID-19 as an excuse to limit seating, and therefore participation, in the September meeting where the board voted to raise taxes.

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“This impromptu rule was enforced nowhere else in RRISD and created only for this specific meeting. For example, approximately fifty students simultaneously meeting directly across the hall from the board meeting were not required to have spacing or reduce their meeting capacity below room capacity,” the lawsuit reads.

“In addition, a board meeting was held a few days later in an auditorium with no spacing or seating restrictions being enforced, demonstrating the rule was a pretext to limit speech.”

With regards to the police officer defendants, the lawsuit claims they worked in concert with Azaiez and the five trustees to restrict Story and Clark from speaking at board meetings about Azaiez’s alleged infidelity and assault.

“Defendant RRISD Police Chief [Jeffrey] Yarbrough, as part of the civil conspiracy, received instructions from both Azaiez and the Trustee Defendants to restrict public participation and use unreasonable force to keep Story out of the meeting room, instructing the other Officer Defendants to prevent Plaintiffs’ participation,” the lawsuit reads.

“Plaintiffs have suffered and are suffering irreparable harm from the Individual Defendants’ retaliatory and discriminatory actions challenged here, as they were forcibly manhandled unnecessarily, prevented from publicly participating in RRISD events designed for petitioning the RRISD board, and then arrested without cause.”

Story was physically restrained during his attempts to enter the meeting room. At that meeting, overflow seating was reserved down the hall, though Story wanted to speak before the trustees personally.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.