Speakers at a conference for Texas attorneys who specialize in school law ridiculed parents who lodge complaints against their local school districts, saying “unruly” moms and dads are “big mad” and just want to yell at school board meetings.

Presenters made the disparaging anti-parent remarks during the annual State Bar of Texas School Law Retreat, a continuing education program held on July 21-22.

“I was appalled at the way in which parents and community members were ridiculed throughout multiple presentations,” said education law attorney Janelle Davis, who attended the program.

“They were referred to as ‘crazy,’ ‘unruly,’ and as individuals who simply want to be mad about everything,” Davis said in a press statement issued by Texas Education 911, a grassroots network advocating for parent-driven reforms to the public school system.

“Unfortunately, it seems as though those who presented and attended the Conference only want to work with parents who do not ask questions or raise concerns,” she said.

In one presentation, school district attorneys drew laughs from attendees when they described parents as “CAVERs”—Citizens Against Virtually Everything—a term previously used in a training presentation by the Texas Association for School Boards (TASB) and Texas Association for School Administrators (TASA).

“In a separate presentation, special education parents were referred to as the most difficult to work with, to which many in the room also laughed,” continued Davis.

As an attorney who works for these parents, I found that to be deplorable. These children are often the most vulnerable ones in the public school setting. Their parents live with constant worry and to be maligned as challenging or somehow difficult to work with simply because they are advocating for their child is callous and lacks empathy for the significant vulnerabilities of these children and their needs.

Davis, who represents families fighting to assert their rights within their local school systems, said most of the other attorneys at the event represent the interests of school districts.

One of those attorneys, Jeff Crownover, was a co-panelist for a presentation titled “Legal Issues Related to Teacher Shortages.”

Crownover is the deputy superintendent for Academics & School Leadership in scandal-plagued Prosper Independent School District.

He began his legal career in 2011 with Walsh Gallegos, one of the major law firms representing Texas school districts against parents in special education matters and grievances. The chair of the School Law Section, Andrea Gulley, currently works for Walsh Gallegos.

Crownover joined Prosper ISD in August 2020 as general counsel, when Holly Ferguson became superintendent.

In August 2022, the district and Ferguson became defendants in a lawsuit alleging Prosper ISD failed to protect two elementary school girls from months of sexual abuse by a bus driver and then covered up the crimes.

Texas Education 911 noted that Prosper ISD “engages at least four law firms and has been embroiled in multiple federal lawsuits over the molestation of two young girls by a district employee and the wrongful criminal trespass of district parents.”

In September 2022, a month after the sex abuse and cover-up scandal became known, Ferguson reassigned Crownover as her chief of administrative services.

In his presentation, Crownover said teacher shortage issues really began with angry parents mad about masks. He said they realized it was “fun to get mad,” and when the masks went away they started getting mad about critical race theory and inappropriate books in school libraries.

“Entire audience laughing and really enjoying Crownover’s comments about ‘big mad’ parents who just want to yell at school board meetings,” Davis posted during the panel discussion, which included the reference to “CAVERs.”

Crownover and his co-panelist, attorney Juan Cruz, also discussed how school districts can issue criminal trespass warnings to “unruly parents” and bar them from school grounds for up to two years—a tactic employed by multiple Texas school districts, including McKinney ISD.

According to Davis, Crownover wasn’t the only one to disparage parents during the conference.

Davis quoted attorney Tiger Hanner, saying, “We can’t let crazy parents mandate what we do. We have to do what’s best for the system. Parents are going to be unhappy no matter what.”

“Make no mistake,” Davis said. “This is what public schools think about parents. If you ask any questions or challenge anything—no matter how legitimate—you are a crazy parent. It’s all about protecting the system.”

“Reminder to school officials,” Davis added. “Parents and their children are the end user of the service being provided. More respect and collaboration instead of blatant contempt for parents would be helpful.”

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.

Soli Rice

A journalist for Texas Scorecard, Soli is a new Texan with a passion for politics. She's excited to hone her writing skills and help spread truth to Texans.