Kendall Tietz on January 7, 2022
DONNA, TX – A Texas school district voted to suspend its superintendent during a Thursday school board meeting over allegations of misconduct, members of the board of trustees confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
On Dec. 15, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Monitor David Faltys sent a memorandum, which the board approved Thursday, to board president Amy Weir and Round Rock Independent School District’s (RRISD) board of trustees, advising the body to suspend Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez and conduct an external investigation into allegations of assault and the use of school board police to silence critics at both RRISD and his former district, Donna ISD.
There is also “an investigation regarding the underlying conduct found in a protective order issued by a Travis County District Court,” the memorandum said. Dr. Daniel Presley has been chosen acting superintendent of Schools, according to the district website.
Board of trustees members Mary Bone and Danielle Weston have been embroiled in a legal dispute against the other five members of RRISD’s school board, who are attempting to investigate and censure them for questioning Azaiez’s credibility, opposing COVID-19 policies and criticizing its use of the district police force to keep the public out of a Sept. 14 board meeting, the two women previously told the DCNF.
“Though there is currently much interest in the Round Rock ISD superintendent and his alleged conduct, my concerns have always been and remain on 5 members of the elected board of trustees,” Weston told the DCNF. “Their delay in taking appropriate action on this matter for so long despite the facts and concerns of Trustee Mary Bone and I is just one of many examples that illustrate the board is paralyzed by politics.
“In my view, all students deserve a bright future and the actions of this board threaten the interests of our students,” Weston added.
Two fathers whose children attend school in RRISD, Dustin Clark and Jeremy Story, have been very vocal in their criticism of the district since the summer of 2021 when RRISD first discussed appointing Azaiez and they heard he had a history of using the police to allegedly silence people who spoke out against him.
“We had video of him [Azaiez] actually sending district police with an order to a 68-year-old hispanic grandmother’s house to prevent her from coming onto campus for two years,” at Donna ISD, Story told the DCNF. “The whole backdrop to this is that this guy had a prior history of being heavy handed and abusing the power given to him.”
RRISD parents called on the school board to further investigate and vet Azaiez to prevent the same events from happening in their district, Clark and Story said. As parents and community members in Round Rock became more outspoken in opposition to district policies, the board and Azaiez attempted to “silence” and “intimidate” parents from getting involved in their children’s education, they told the DCNF.
“I am sad that this action had to be taken by the board but, thankful that the Texas Education Authority is providing increasing oversight,” Story told the DCNF. “If our district is taken over by the TEA it will only be the fault of the unfaithful five board members who created all this mess.”
“Azaiez is only a symptom of a larger problem that originates with these board members,” he added. “Several board members openly challenged the TEA’s authority and the veracity of their investigation. These same board members have been engaged in a cover up and unlawful activities. The TEA should broaden their investigation beyond just the Superintendent to include Trustees Weir, Feller, Harrison, Vessa and Xaio.”
One of the recent allegations claimed Azaiez had “assaulted a mistress that he had gotten pregnant,” on July 6, after she had refused to get an abortion, Clark said. On July 14, the alleged victim emailed the RRISD Board of Trustees requesting to speak to them about the purported assault, according to an email obtained by the DCNF.
“I am pleased to see that the school board voted to put the superintendent on administrative leave and conduct a third-party investigation into allegations of assault that have been made against him by a pregnant woman that he admits to having an affair with,” Clark told the DCNF. “Unfortunately, many of the trustees only voted for this action because the Texas Education Agency forced their hand via a letter recommending they do so.”
Azaiez’s attorney, Mary Goodrich Nix, said in a Jan. 6 statement that she was “appalled” by the TEA and the board for allowing “themselves to be hijacked, coerced, and forced by two renegade members of the Round Rock ISD Board to pursue the ouster of Dr. Azaiez based upon an alleged assault that, in their heart of hearts, each member of the Board knows never occurred, we have objective evidence, which we believe to be incontrovertible, demonstrating that the alleged assault, which is the genesis of this controversy, did not occur,” KVUE reported.
At an Aug. 16 meeting, Story had his microphone cut and was dragged out by police officers during the public comment portion of the meeting for mentioning the allegations against Azaiez and criticizing the board for not taking any action, he told the DCNF. He alleged that Azaiez and the school board had a premeditated plan for what they were going to do.
“The overall story of using police to stop someone from speaking during their lawful time, when they’re not making any threats or violating any laws, that’s the problem,” he said. “You have a premeditated, unlawful use of police force to silence freedom of speech.”
In August, RRISD started restricting seats for school board meetings and by Sept. 14, there were only 18 chairs for a district of over 50,000 students. If a school district has a police force, they report to the superintendent, according to Texas law.
So to enforce their new seating limits, the school board deployed the district’s police force to keep members of the community out of the meeting.
Story said the same two police officers who dragged him out of the August meeting were the ones barricading the door to prevent him from coming in on Sept. 14.
“One of them eventually grabbed me and wrapped me around the pole and put a cut in my back,” he said. “The other one pushed me down to the floor.”
Three days later, on Sept. 17, Clark and Story were arrested after the school district police issued an affidavit to get the county sheriff to show up at their homes “on the same day, at the same time,” for disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor, Story said.
He believes an exception had to have been made “by someone at a high level in the sheriff’s office … because you’re not supposed to be jailed for the level of misdemeanor we had in our county,” but police told Story that they were just doing their job, as directed by the school board.
An event like this “doesn’t go unobserved by board members,” Story said. “We don’t know who coordinated with the sheriff to make that exception and what was said to paint us in such a dangerous light that we were a danger to the community and needed to be arrested in our homes to spend the night in jail,” Clark said.
“They had targeted us from the very beginning with an attempt to arrest us late on a Friday afternoon in a clandestine way … so they can hold us overnight in jail, punitively really, just to silence us and other parents for speaking [out],” Story said.
Clark said it is unfortunate that it took six months of calls from the community, the arrest of two parents, national media attention and the TEA’s recommendation for the school board to act.
“We had hoped from the beginning that these leaders would have done the hard right thing from the beginning, but instead five of the seven trustees chose to resist every step of the way,” he added. “Going forward I hope this investigation can be expanded to the conduct of the board, in hopes of allowing our community, our teachers, and our students to heal and move forward.”
RRISD and Azaiez’s attorney, Mary Goodrich Nix, did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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