NORTH TEXAS — In an apparent continuation of policies designed to squelch citizens’ free speech, McKinney Independent School District passed a measure allowing school staff to eject parents from district property for any behavior “deemed inappropriate,” without due process.

At a board meeting Tuesday night, trustees voted to use an amendment to McKinney ISD’s local “District of Innovation” plan to exempt the district from state laws governing how attendees at school events are treated.

The exemption authorizes designated district staff to “remove parents or visitors whose behavior is deemed inappropriate without warning or written notice.”

Superintendent Rick McDaniel recommended that board members adopt the amendment “to provide flexibility in addressing unruly visitors.”

“That’s not innovation, that’s intimidation,” McKinney resident Lee Moore told trustees during public comments at Tuesday’s meeting.

She said making it easier to eject people from district property and events “has nothing to do with actual innovation.”

“Being an innovative district means trying different things that will benefit students or support teachers,” Moore said. “Instead, you are using the DOI status as your cover to silence and intimidate parents.”

School officials said Tuesday night the amendment was to address “a rise in incidents on campuses.”

“This has nothing to do with our meetings,” Board President Amy Dankel said. “It’s for the safety of students and staff.”

Dankel and other district staff are already facing a civil rights lawsuit for suppressing the First Amendment rights of citizens who disagreed with McKinney ISD policies at school board meetings.

Board documents show the district hosted meetings in May and June to research the legal policy for “removal of unruly visitors,” though no minutes of those meetings are found on the McKinney ISD website.

Trustee Chad Green was the only board member to raise objections, saying the language was over-broad and could invite violations of citizens’ rights.

He moved to table the measure, but no other trustees supported his call to further define how it would be applied—despite comments from several citizens opposed to the exemption.

Green, who was elected last year on a platform of transparency for taxpayers and giving district parents a voice, is often the lone vote representing conservatives. His constituents say that’s why the rest of the board ostracized and eventually censured him.

The final vote on the amendment was 6-0, with Green abstaining.

Under current law (Section 37.105 of the Texas Education Code), a school district administrator, resource officer, or peace officer may eject a person from district property if the person refuses to leave peaceably on request and either (1) poses a substantial risk of harm, or (2) behaves “in a manner that is inappropriate for a school setting” and, after a “verbal warning,” persists in that behavior.

The amendment to the local innovation plan approved by McKinney ISD’s board allows the district to deny citizens the required warning and notice of appeal:

In 2017, the Texas Legislature changed the law on how school administrators can eject unruly guests from school events. This applies to parents and community members, not students.

 

Under the law, the guest must be given a warning before he or she is ejected. Upon ejection, the guest must also be given notice of how he/she can appeal the ejection.

 

This new amendment seeks to allow designated staff members the authority to remove parents or visitors whose behavior is deemed inappropriate without warning or written notice.

McKinney ISD will now submit the amendment to the Texas Education Agency, though TEA does not have the authority to approve or reject local innovation plans:

Consequently, some plans may claim unallowable exemptions. … The district should review each claimed exemption to make sure that the claimed exemption complies with the law and rules.

“However, the Agency retains the authority to engage in investigative, intervention and enforcement activities if the district is not in compliance with legal requirements for which an exemption cannot be claimed,” according to the TEA website.

McKinney ISD mom Serena Ashcroft says parents intend to file complaints with the TEA commissioner.

“It’s operating outside the scope of innovation and has nothing to do with education,” Ashcroft said. “It’s changing the law. They don’t have the authority to do that.”

Citizens can contact school board members with questions or concerns.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.

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