For more than a year, Texas Scorecard has chronicled multiple scandals at the Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD). These publications include a special report and an exclusive podcast series, Exposed, showcasing the potential for corruption at thousands of public schools across the state.
Accusations of domestic violence, school board cover-ups, and teachers assaulting students have dogged the supposedly “safe and suburban” district in the northern suburbs of Austin.
In 2021, local citizens accused RRISD school board members of forgoing a public forum and rushing the hiring process for the new superintendent, Dr. Hafedh Azaiez. School board trustees Danielle Weston and Mary Bone later revealed that their fellow school board trustees had been alerted to accusations of domestic violence against Azaiez but ignored the information.
Five trustees—Amy Weir, Jun Xiao, Amber Feller, Cory Vessa, and Tiffanie Harrison—voted to hire Azaiez despite the objections of Weston and Bone, as well as local parents. Citizens in the district dubbed the five trustees who voted to install Azaiez the “Bad Faith Five.”
Only a few months after hiring Azaiez, in January 2022, the school board voted 6-1 to place him on paid administrative leave while an external investigator looked into the domestic violence allegations.
The scandal grew the following month when new documents revealed the allegation’s details and a potential cover-up conducted by school board trustees. Trustees Weston and Bone, who spoke out against the cloudy dealings surrounding Azaiez, faced weaponized censure and personal scorn from their fellow trustees.
In March 2022, behind closed doors, RRISD’s school board voted 5-2 to reinstate Azaiez and continued protecting him from outside scrutiny and parent complaints. After Texas Scorecard and 35 citizens submitted open records requests for the external investigator’s report, RRISD asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office to prevent the document’s release.
As of this month, the district still employs Azaiez as superintendent and even rewarded him with a $28,900 “incentive and performance bonus” in September 2022.
In May 2022, RRISD parents Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark filed a federal lawsuit against the “Bad Faith Five” trustees, Superintendent Azaiez, and several district police officers.
Last year, the school district coordinated with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and had Story and Clark arrested on charges of “hindering proceedings by disorderly conduct” following a September school board meeting. The two men attended the meeting to protest Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez’s continued employment and a proposed tax increase. Both men were released the next day.
The lawsuit claimed the defendants violated Story and Clark’s rights under the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment. Additionally, the suit accused the defendants of violating 42 U.S. Code 1983, or misusing their power to deny the men’s constitutional rights.
Story condemned the five trustees cited in the lawsuit—Amber Feller, Tiffanie Harrison, Amy Weir, Dr. Jun Xiao, and Cory Vessa—and called for more transparency in the district.
This case involves and affects both Dustin and I but, it isn’t just about us. We hope to stop the chilling of freedom of speech and the right to petition your government caused by several members of the RRISD school board’s rogue actions. We also hope to expose the corruption that has been so rampant with the superintendent and several board members.
The scandal over Azaiez and the arrests of Story and Clark drew attention to other problems in the school district. Some incidents included Round Rock ISD allowing gender-confused students to use the locker room opposite from their biological sex and spending more than $12,000 in registration fees to send employees to an education conference featuring three board members of Drag Queen Story Hour.
Concerns with the district’s treatment of special needs students grew last month when a video emerged of a vice principal shoving a 13-year-old special needs student into a brick wall at the GOALS learning center. When the student’s mother attempted to voice her complaint at an October school board meeting, board members did not allow her to finish speaking and then blocked her from speaking to the media present. Trustee Weston tried to come to the mother’s aid, but she was outvoted. Trustee Bone was not present at that meeting.
A slate of pro-family school board candidates failed to overtake incumbents or win open seats in last month’s general election.
As public schools across the state come under fire for promoting explicit books, employing predatory teachers, and corruption charges, how matters at RRISD continue to transpire could make it a potential test case for how Texans react to mismanagement in their school districts.