Alec Rooney, News Editor, Christian Action Network
They weren’t looking for fame. They weren’t looking for notoriety, or to become the faces of a cause, or even to embarrass local officials and put them on the spot.
They were simply a couple of dads (and young military veterans) who thought something smelled bad with what their local, Texas school board was up to. Each dared to speak out as an American about what they saw as corruption, collusion and finally intimidation by local authorities who were abusing their power.
Three days later, both men were arrested at their homes in a curiously coordinated show-of-force operation by local authorities and found themselves in jail overnight.
Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark both joined the Shout Out Patriots podcast, sponsored by the Christian Action Network of Forest, Va., on Dec. 7. The men shared a story of parents colliding head-on with local – and decidedly liberal – school officials who prove to be ruthless, abusive and above the law when their “power” is rightfully challenged.
Virginia has been the focal point of some of these stories, with a district superintendent accused of covering up a sexual assault and having the victim’s community-member dad arrested. Other boards have been called out over gay pornography placed officially in school libraries, and the teaching of a racism-focused alt-history of the United States called Critical Race Theory, in which virtually all free and democratic American institutions are implicated as “White Supremacy” that must be torn down and replaced with liberalism, Marxism, and “woke”-ist conformism.
Questionable candidate, questionable vote
The incident that ensnared Story and Clark took place in Texas Round Rock Independent School District, near Austin, in August of 2021. It began with the dubious hiring of a highly questionable candidate for schools superintendent, Hafedh Azaiez.
By Story’s account, Azaiez suddenly appeared at a board meeting where many did not even know he was present until he was brought out from a back room and voted into his new position. It was clear, Story said, that Azaiez had come from six hours away and that while five liberal-leaning school board members were aware of his presence in the building, the two more conservative board members were not, and were surprised when Azaiez was brought out and voted on while clearly knowing he was to be the new superintendent.
The Texas Open Meetings Act had clearly been violated, Story said, with collusion occurring between the five liberal members and their candidate, with the conservative members (who voted to put off the hiring) left “out of the loop.”
“It’s a very serious offense in Texas,” he told host Martin Mawyer on Shout Out Patriots. “It was a complete farce puppet show that they were even debating to hire him that night, because they had already made the decision.”
The amorous superintendent
Story said his initial concerns about Azaiez stemmed from his ordering the arrest of an outspoken member of the public where he previously worked, but that disturbing aspects of Azaiez’s personal life had come to light as well.
Story described being contacted by a woman who said she had been romantically involved with the new Round Rock superintendent, who had misled her that he was not married, and that she was now pregnant with his child. She backed it up to Story with text messages in which she revealed to Azaiez that she was pregnant and was told by him to get an abortion, which she resisted. Azaiez then proceeded to threaten her, she said.
The woman described being actually assaulted by the new superintendent, Story said, and said she had evidence of it. Azaiez went on to file a restraining order against her. It was dismissed, and the woman was able to get a restraining order against him.
She took her story to the Round Rock Independent School District board, and while two sympathetic board members wanted to investigate, the other five did their best to keep it off the agenda, and succeeded.
On the board, oddly, it was the exact same 5-2 split.
Getting involved, getting thrown out
Story then decided to get even more actively involved. He wrote the board an email, so that the matter could be addressed privately rather than in the public forum of a board meeting. The same five board members dismissed it, stonewalling, and “said they didn’t have any plans to talk with me.” The same two other board members did respond favorably, but were “stymied” by the other five.
When he attempted to speak at the board’s Aug. 16 meeting about the matter, he was shut down by the board president, who had police drag him out.
He was arrested a month later, “on Constitution Day. That’s how we celebrated Constitution Day. Being arrested, having our Constitutional rights violated.”
Enter Dustin Clark
Story said “we” because another man, Dustin Clark, was very coincidentally arrested at the same time.
Clark had attended a subsequent meeting, on Sept. 14, at which the board was discussing imposing a mask mandate that actually went against an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
At the September meeting, the board had drastically cut the number of seats for the public, from more than 100 to only 18. Clark was told he could not sit in a folding camp chair he had brought, and he then observed police physically blocking doorways so that more members of the public could not enter the meeting. Asked why they were blocking the doors, he said, the police would not answer members of the public.
The same two board members who had voted against the hiring of Azaiez proceeded to publicly ask why the community was being kept out of the meeting. The board president blamed COVID restrictions. It became clear that this was not the case, for band students were practicing in a nearby room without masks and the policy was in place nowhere else in the school system. The new superintendent subsequently announced that he had created the new policy unilaterally.
A debate continued, with the two-member board minority stressing that the Texas Open Meetings Act was very specific about allowing public access. Interestingly, a proposal to raise the property tax then came up, without being on the agenda.
When the two dissident board members then recused themselves from what they called an unlawful meeting, Clark finally spoke up, voicing the same concerns, and was soon dragged out by police.
A public show of intimidation
Three days later came the arrests. Both he and Story were arrested at their homes, each by two squad cars, and in a coordinated manner that Clark told Shout Out Patriots resembled a raid on a dangerous drug cartel. Both fathers found themselves in jail for the night, merely because they had voiced calm, well-documented and appropriate concerns at school board meetings, about reckless officials running the meetings.
They were each charged with a Class A misdemeanor, the highest misdemeanor charge in the state: “Hindering proceedings by public disruption.”
“It’s clearly a process of bullying and intimidation by the school board,” said podcast guest David Carroll, an Ohio attorney who is also director of the Christian Action Network.
A coordinated, planned effort
Story went on to describe how, while COVID policies at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office jail dictated that many nonviolent and non-DUI misdemeanors were not to involve incarceration, “an exception was made for us.”
Everything pointed, he said, to a coordinated, planned effort involving powerful local officials to intimidate and punish two alert and vocal members of the community who merely wanted their public say.
“We believe that is because we were targeted in order to be silenced,” Story said, noting the very public way he and Clark were “punished” for speaking out.
“It’s like a gag order on our whole community.”
The “gang of five” board members who originally hired Azaiez subsequently censured their two dissenting colleagues in a way that would keep them off of school property in their official capacities, cementing the impression that they intend to continue silencing dissent and wielding power through conspiratorial, bureaucratic gamesmanship.
“To see that kind of coordination take place, it is very concerning to us, living in a county that we thought was fairly conservative,” Clark said on Shout Out Patriots.
What happens next
The county attorney is currently deciding “whether to prosecute either one of us,” Story said, asked about the status of criminal charges against himself and Clark. He said he has a message for his corrupt and abusive local officials.
“My message is: I’m not backing down. So, if the county wants to get sued then they can go ahead and try to prosecute this. My suggestion is that they don’t unlawfully join with an unlawful school board, but that they separate themselves from this school board, rather than getting themselves implicated in the midst of a situation with an unlawful, out-of-control, tyrannical school board.”
Story said the only acceptable outcome for the case is that the five, apparently colluding school board members resign.
He also said that an investigation of Hafedh Azaiez, the amorous superintendent whose hiring and personal life sparked this entire Texas brushfire, is active and ongoing.