Uvalde School District Faces Free Speech Legal Action
A parent who lost a child in the Uvalde shooting last year has been banned from attending school board meetings and other district properties for raising concerns about safety measures. Adam Martinez’s son hid under a school desk for 45 minutes during the shooting last May and has since been traumatized by the experience, reportedly refusing to sleep in his own bed. With two children in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, Martinez has been campaigning for safety improvements and criticizing the school’s police force. When he raised concerns about a police hire in February, he was banned from school board meetings and district property for two years.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a free speech advocacy organization, has issued a demand letter to Uvalde CISD, calling for the ban to be lifted. The district has until Monday to comply or face legal action. Martinez said being banned from district property felt “very unfair” and that the school was “going against my rights.” He has been barred from attending his nephew’s graduation ceremony as a result of the ban.
After the Uvalde massacre, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers, Uvalde officials received criticism over the police response. Officers reportedly waited over an hour to end the shooting after it had begun. The district suspended its entire police department and fired the police chief, while attempting to find qualified officers. Martinez criticized the school officials’ efforts to remake the police force and launched an advocacy group to help the victims’ families with medical and funeral expenses.
FIRE alleges that Martinez’s side conversation with the Uvalde CISD Police Chief during the meeting did not disrupt the proceedings, and video proves their case. Martinez was told to sit down, but he continued to talk to the Chief anyway. Martinez and his family were then asked to exit the meeting and he received a formal criminal trespass warning prohibiting him from all Uvalde CISD campuses and property for two years. Martinez has stated that he has never been arrested or had any type of record and that being treated in such a way is “embarrassing.”
Josh Bleisch, an attorney with FIRE, said that school districts cannot block people from public property due to a disagreement with what is being said. Parents and other citizens have the right to attend open meetings and criticize their government. Bleisch considers the ban from district property a disproportionate punishment. Martinez urged others to speak out and noted that not everyone has the support or legal representation that he does.