The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

"FIRE to Uvalde: Lift Ban on Father who Questioned School Safety or We'll Sue"


From a press release by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, whose descriptions and analyses of their cases I have generally found reliable:

Mere months after the Uvalde school district suspended its entire police force for failing to effectively respond to a deadly shooting at an elementary school, school officials banned a concerned parent from school property — because he questioned the qualifications of a new police hire.

Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression demanded the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District lift its ban against Adam Martinez, a father of two students in the district. The district banned Martinez from all district property for two years, including from school board meetings. FIRE's letter to UCISD threatens litigation if the district does not lift the unconstitutional ban by May 22, 2023.

Adam Martinez (photo from FIRE)


… One of Martinez's children was at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, when a former student fatally shot 19 students and 2 teachers and injured 17 others. His child was physically unharmed. In the wake of the tragedy and police's failure to enter the school building for over an hour, the school district fired its police chief and suspended its entire police force as it searched for qualified officers.

Martinez, concerned about his children's safety, is a vocal critic of the Uvalde school district's efforts to rebuild its police department. He started a local advocacy group that organized fundraisers for victims of the shooting, helped others with funeral and medical expenses, and does other community service. Martinez speaks out both online and directly with Uvalde administrators.

In February 2023, through correspondence with the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office, Martinez discovered that UCISD recently hired an officer whom the Sheriff's Office had deemed ineligible for rehire.

At the Feb. 13 school board meeting, Martinez approached UCISD Police Chief Josh Gutierrez, who was standing along the wall of the meeting room, to express concerns about the hire. Gutierrez didn't want to hear Martinez's criticism and told Martinez to sit down. Martinez, concerned about school safety and wanting answers, continued to speak to Gutierrez. Then, Gutierrez told Martinez and his family to leave the meeting, and informed Martinez that he would be banned from school property. As video of the school board meeting demonstrates, Martinez and Gutierrez's conversation remained quiet and did not disrupt the proceedings in any way.

The following day, UCISD Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson notified Martinez that, effective immediately, he was not allowed to set foot on any UCISD school property for two years. The letter cited Martinez's behavior at the school board meeting, falsely claiming it was "disrupting and/or disturbing." …

Martinez wants to attend school board meetings and graduation ceremonies for his nephew this month. But until UCISD lifts the ban, Martinez is barred from attendance….

I've e-mailed the school district to see if they wanted to pass along a statement conveying their side of the story; if I hear back from them with such a statement, I'll update the post to include it.