July 26, 2023 Contact: TexasEd911@gmail.com
(North Texas) – Presenters at a recent Texas school law conference maligned and ridiculed “big mad” public school parents because they expressed concerns about mask mandates and about destructive racial and sexual content that has been prevalent in schools since 2020. Teacher shortages were also blamed on parents, and inflammatory imagery was used to malign and ridicule legislators for their efforts to protect children and parental rights. Links to four recorded segments can be accessed here, here, here, and here.
Jeff Crownover, Deputy Superintendent, Academics and School Leadership for Prosper ISD and co-presenter Juan Cruz of J. Cruz & Associates called parents "CAVERs." A burst of laughter could be heard throughout the room when a slide presentation revealed the definition: "Citizens Against Virtually Everything." Heads in the room were nodding in agreement, according to a participant.
The proposed remedy to such parental “misbehavior,” according to Crownover and Cruz, is a two-year criminal trespass threat against them—which would bar parents from being on their children’s school campus and effectually exclude them from participation in their children’s education.
The shocking and divisive comments were made by school lawyers who earn their livelihood from defending schools, school boards and educators from legal liabilities of all sorts. The conference was sponsored by the Texas State Bar Association to provide continuing legal education credit for school lawyers.
"I attended the State Bar of Texas School Law Conference, and I was appalled at the way parents and community members were ridiculed throughout multiple presentations," said Janelle Davis, an attorney and public school parent.
"They were referred to as ‘crazy,’ ‘unruly’ and as individuals who simply want to be mad about everything. 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 represents these parents, I found it deplorable. These children are often the most vulnerable ones in the public-school setting. To be maligned as challenging or 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."
Ironically, Crownover, a lawyer, works for Prosper ISD, a district which engages at least four law firms, according to Davis, and has been embroiled in multiple lawsuits over the molestation of two young girls by a district employee, civil rights violations and unlawful criminal trespass orders issued to district parents.
"Parents of children in public school entrust school officials with their most precious gift – their children. They deserve to be recognized as the primary decision-makers, treated with respect, and welcomed as collaborative partners in their children's schools," said Davis. "Unfortunately, it seems as though presenters and most participants at the conference only want to work with parents who do not ask questions or raise concerns," she concluded.
Parental rights advocates from the grassroots statewide network Texas Education 911 say this is a reprehensible and dangerous precedent.
“Many Texas school districts have developed a pattern of using authoritarian tactics to punish parents for protecting their kids, and they’re doing it with impunity. This isn’t a healthy environment for effective education,” said Aileen Blachowski, a Texas Education 911 parent speaking on behalf of the network.
“The spiraling trust and climate in Texas public schools will not improve if profit-motivated stakeholders continue to use heavy-handed tactics and rhetoric to bully parents, and school lawyers insulate schools from the consequences of unfair dealing. It seems they’re more focused on maintaining power and money than on genuinely educating children,” said Blachowski.
Texas Education 911 believes that a major step to improving schools is an independent Parent Ombudsman or Inspector General to provide oversight and accountability. Rep. Jared Patterson filed HB 1924 and Sen. Angela Paxton filed SB 2114 to accomplish this, though neither bill received much attention.
Their Champion A Child Campaign stories, a collection of 32 cases of children harmed by public schools across the state, show the need for independent oversight and accountability. These stories are reflective of what happens when there’s such an unfair balance of power in schools.
Texas Education 911 is disappointed that parents were left out of a recent House hearing that only included invited testimony from special interests who profit from public education. “We want lawmakers to listen to parent-identified problems and solutions before they finalize legislative proposals for an Education Special Session expected in the Fall,” said Blachowski.
“Regardless of the outcome of the school choice conversation, most of the 5.4 million Texas students will likely remain in public schools. It’s essential to improve transparency, accountability, authentic school safety and a level playing field on which to resolve school-related issues for these Texas families,” said Blachowski, “Parents are the primary stakeholders who make education decisions for their children. It's essential that we have a seat at the table when laws and policies are being considered. We don’t have big budgets, but we have time, tenacity and love for our kids. We know the integrity of our future generations is what’s at stake."
"Leaving parents out of addressing problems in schools is exclusionary. Blaming parents and legislators for the teacher shortage is dishonest and destructive," said Blachowski about the school lawyers' comments.
The group advises lawmakers and school board trustees to exercise independence from the entrenched lobbyists and special interest advisors and collaborate with parents who are working on solutions.
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Texas Education 911 is a statewide grassroots network of parents who are constructively addressing the educational emergency in Texas public schools. As parents, we identify problematic patterns in our schools and school system and propose positive policy solutions. Learn more at www.TexasEducation911.com