Texas school board reinstates scandal-ridden superintendent

Jeremy Story and Dustin Clark removed from meetings of the Round Rock ISD school board

Round Rock ISD police remove Jeremy Story from a school board meeting on Aug. 16. On Sept. 14, Round Rock ISD police remove Dustin Clark from a school board meeting. Both were later arrested and claim the school district is trying to silence them. Credit: Round Rock ISD and Shauna Kinningham

The Round Rock Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees voted to reinstate Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez Thursday night, two months after he was suspended amid a Texas Education Association investigation into family violence allegations.

“The information that we had was not only that Travis County no longer has an active investigation and it’s closed, but the district attorney also had assured us through another attorney that the case was closed,” Trustee Amy Weir, former president of the school board, said during the meeting. Weir and four other school board members voted to reinstate Azaiez, while two others voted against the move.

The school board met behind closed doors to discuss the superintendent, then voted to reinstate him, Texas Scorecard reported. Azaiez is set to be reinstated as of 8 a.m. Friday.

“I’ll just say that for me to vote for this would require the willing suspension of disbelief. I will be voting no,” Trustee Danielle Weston said.

Danielle Weston and Mary Bone, two trustees at Round Rock ISD
(Round Rock ISD)

The other trustee who voted no, Mary Bone, countered Weir’s statement. “We have a letter from an attorney that is basically hearsay,” she said. “I was not allowed to verify it; I was not allowed to have our attorney Joey Moore verify it, so I don’t take that into consideration.”

“And I keep hearing that the investigation is closed. The investigation is not closed; the investigation is inactive,” Bone argued. “It says, ‘I confirm we no longer have an active investigation.’ So, that means I guess it could come active anytime. It’s not suspended. It means lots of other things, so when we say it’s closed, I think it’s a little bit of a non-truth to the public.”

Weston and Bone have claimed that the five other school board members rushed the hiring process for Azaiez and that the school board members tried to censure them in a “naked political hit job.” Weir previously told Fox News that she would not speak about the censure issue because it involved active litigation.

The scandal

Hafedh Azaiez
(Round Rock ISD)

Azaiez’s suspension came months into a very public scandal.

Two fathers had gotten arrested for allegedly disturbing school board meetings after one of them mentioned a court proceeding against Azaiez. The school district suspended Azaiez after the Texas Education Agency recommended suspension due to the accusations the superintendent faced from his former girlfriend.

The Travis County District Court previously provided Fox News with an application for a protective order (redacted version here) against Azaiez. In that document, a woman who identified herself as Azaiez’s girlfriend from September. 2018 to December 2020 and then from February 2021 to June 2021 claimed that when she told Azaiez she was pregnant with his child, he demanded that she get an abortion, and when she refused, he assaulted her in her home, which put her in danger of a miscarriage. 

The woman also claimed that Azaiez told her, “the school board president [Amy Weir, at the time] was aware and had offered to protect him, she was informing him of everything and guaranteed him he would not lose his job. In the past, I had heard conversations between him and the school board president plotting things and keeping things from other school board members.”

Weir previously told Fox News that “the information in the sworn statement regarding me is false.”

Azaiez’s lawyer’s response

Hafedh Azaiez
(Round Rock ISD)

Mary Nix, the attorney representing Azaiez, noted that “all applications for protective orders, including the one to which you refer, contain ‘allegations’ which are unproven and are not ‘facts.’ As I succinctly stated in a January 5, 2022 press release, we have objective evidence that the alleged assault, which is the genesis of this controversy, did not occur and we believe that evidence to be incontrovertible.”

“Finally, knowing that the application to which you refer contains unproven allegations about a personal matter, the Round Rock ISD school board rightfully made its hiring decision based on Dr. Azaiez’s professional qualifications,” Nix added.

In her Jan. 5, 2022, press release, Nix wrote that “the personal dispute between Dr. Azaiez and the third-party complainant was amicably resolved and there is a confidential settlement agreement. An agreed-upon civil restraining order was entered into by and between Dr. Azaiez and the complainant.”

Nix did not elaborate on the nature of the evidence, besides repeating that it is “incontrovertible.”

The arrests

Jeremy Story getting escorted out of a Round Rock ISD school board meeting
(Jeremy Story)

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jeremy Story, a father of seven children who lives in the district but whose children attend school outside it, and Dustin Clark, a father of four children in RRISD schools, on Sept. 17, 2021, on one misdemeanor charge each of hinder proceeding by disorderly conduct. 

The charge against Story traced back to an Aug. 16 board meeting in which Story attempted to voice concerns about Azaiez. During that meeting, then-board President Weir cut Story off, warning him not to speak about a topic unrelated to the meeting’s agenda. After he uttered the words “protective order,” RRISD police escorted him out of the meeting.

Weir previously told Fox News that “there has never been an attempt to silence Mr. Story.” She noted that, as per normal procedure, Story wrote on a card indicating what he would say at the meeting, and he wrote that “unlike the board, citizens are not required to speak on items on the agenda,” thus indicating that “he was planning to speak on a topic not listed for the meeting,” Weir said. 

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokeswoman for the school district, said, “At no time were speakers not allowed to speak in accordance with state law and board policy at a Round Rock ISD board meeting.”

Clark referenced a Sept. 14, 2021, school board meeting in which RRISD only set up 18 chairs in a room that accommodates 300 people and prevented members of the public from entering. “These actions seemed to be an effort to intimidate parents and control the optics by arbitrarily restricting the capacity of parents and community members allowed in the boardroom,” Clark said. He spoke up at that meeting, was removed by police, and was arrested three days later.

Round Rock ISD school board seating
(Round Rock ISD, Jeremy Story)

“Mr. Clark came into the board room after seating capacity limits had been met, and was escorted out after he continued to shout at board members and other attendees, interrupting the board’s discussion and a public speaker whose turn it was to address the board,” Weir previously told Fox News regarding the incident. 

LaCoste-Caputo noted that the district had an overflow room where members of the public could watch the proceedings on a screen.

The Round Rock school district has its own police force, separate from state and local forces, under the superintendent. While the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office carried out the arrests, a member of that police force filed the affidavits for the arrests of Story and Clark.

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