The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has sent a letter demanding that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District in Uvalde, Texas revoke its ban against an outspoken parent by Monday next week after he questioned decisions concerning its police force.
The letter comes near the 1-year anniversary of a deadly school shooting at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022. Adam Martinez is a parent of two children in the district, one attending Robb at the time of the shooting. Martinez says he was banned from school property for speaking out about the district’s efforts to keep students safe.
In May last year, a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and killed 19 students and two teachers, injuring 17 others. Police officers delayed for over an hour before entering the building.
Martinez has criticized how the district has assembled a new police department after the district’s whole police force was suspended and the district’s police chief was fired. In February, Martinez learned that the district had hired a police officer that the county sheriff’s office had flagged “not eligible for rehire,” according to the letter sent to the district by FIRE.
Martinez shared his concerns with school district Police Chief Joshua Gutierrez, which was recorded, but Gutierrez told him to sit down, which Martinez refused. Gutierrez then banned him from school property and escorted Martinez and his family out of the building, according to FIRE’s letter to adminstrators.
The next day, Gary Patterson, the district’s interim superintendent sent Martinez a letter formally informing Martinez that he was banned from all school property for two years for “disrupting and/or disturbing the normal education functions of this school.”
Martinez filed a grievance and was allowed to pick up his daughter from school and attend events she is involved in, according to FIRE’s letter. FIRE is now asking the district to lift the ban before May 22 because Martinez wants to attend school board meetings and his nephew’s graduation ceremony.
“My community counts on me to be their voice, but the district wants to shut me up,” Martinez said in a statement. “My fight has always been for the 21 people who no longer have a voice and for those who are too scared to speak up about social injustice.”
FIRE maintains that the ban is unconstitutional.
“Banning a concerned parent from school property for two years for his speech is both ridiculous and illegal,” FIRE attorney Josh Bleisch said in a statement. “The district can’t ban people from public property because it doesn’t like what they have to say. If UCISD doesn’t do the right thing and lift the ban, we are prepared to go to court.”