A federal judge has ruled in favor of Jeremy Story, a Texas pastor who found himself behind bars after exposing corruption in his local school district. The decision comes after a fiery legal battle between members of the community in Round Rock, TX and the local government.
This development marks a step forward in Story’s case against the school board:
Judge David Allen Ezra of the Western District of Texas Federal court ruled that a local Pastor’s lawsuit against current and former board members, Amy Weir, Amber Landrum, Tiffany Harrison, Jun Xiao and Cory Vessa; Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, as well as several district police officers, could proceed in the next steps towards trial. In May of 2022, Jeremy Story, a parent and a local pastor, sued the district, board members, superintendent and various district police after they catalyzed his arrest and jailing. Story claims they retaliated after he exposed the superintendent as having an affair and a protective order for family violence served to him secretly at district headquarters. Story also makes claims in his case five of the seven trustees conspired to illegally hire the Superintendent.
The district spent the last 14 months filing numerous attempts to dismiss Story’s case with over 400 pages of legal arguments. This latest ruling by Judge Ezra shot down the district’s hopes of having the case dismissed. Judge Ezra also asked Story to submit more facts by August 26th so that Ezra may determine if additional board members or police may be included in proceeding towards trial.
The situation began in 2021 when Story and others confronted the school board over a series of issues, one of which was the hiring of Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez:
When a Texas school board is set to make a major decision, such as the hiring of a new superintendent, they are required by law to allow the public to vet the candidate. They are not allowed to unilaterally make these decisions, and even further, the meetings to discuss these matters are supposed to be public. To put it simply, the school board is not allowed to make decisions of this nature behind closed doors.
During our conversation, Story explained:
“When you’re hiring a new Superintendent on a school board, what you have to do is you have to give the public a little over two weeks to vet whoever becomes your final candidate. They’re just the final candidate. You’ve weeded out all the others because you do that without telling anybody so that each of the candidates don’t know about each other.”
Story told RedState that allowing the public to vet a potential superintendent is “mandated by law in Texas.” The school board did not observe this rule during the hiring process.
Members of the community were concerned about a restraining order Azaiez had issued against a 68-year-old Hispanic woman in his previous school district. He allegedly barred her from going on campus because she spoke out against Azaiez and others.
The pastor also published text messages provided to him by Azaiez’s mistress, who he allegedly pressured to get an abortion after impregnating her. The mistress also claims the superintendent was physically abusive toward her. In a police report, she stated that “she had been beaten by the superintendent.” Instead of exploring the matter, the school board “tipped off” Azaiez about her claims.
While attempting to speak on these matters during a school board meeting, Story was forcibly removed from the stand by police officers. “They literally grabbed me by either arm while I was speaking in a just normal voice. I wasn’t yelling or anything and dragged me out of the room, then dragged me down the hallway, then across the cafeteria and pushed me out the front door,” he recounted.
After filing a complaint with the authorities, law enforcement sent police officers to Story’s residence and arrested him. He spent an entire 24 hours in jail before being released.
“They originally told me when they booked me at the jail, I would be held all weekend,” he recalled. “Unbeknownst to me, tons of community members gathered outside the jail and held an all-night prayer vigil. Suddenly after hours and hours of people gathering outside the jail, the next morning, they ‘found’ a local magistrate who processed me and they released me.”
In his decision, Judge Ezra noted that the pastor “has alleged facts sufficient to state a claim that he was engaged in constitutionally protected speech” and that his arrest “would certainly chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in the protected activity.”
The judge ruled that the pastor “had shown colorable First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations as well as Open Meetings Act violations that could proceed towards trial.”
Story said he has received mixed opinions on the matter. “The school district and board members has quietly leveraged their PR abilities to conceal and twist the truth about me. There are many in the community that would support these malfeasant leaders no matter what is revealed about their actions,” he said. “My family and I have been under constant slander and even occasional threats by some in the community and across the nation.”
However, there are still many who have supported him:
Many parents are supportive though. My entire case has been funded through donations from the individuals. We are still pressing forward only by donations from supportive people. A non-profit tax deductible fund has been setup to receive the donations. I am very grateful for those who have stood with my family and I.”
Pastor Story and others are currently raising money to fund their lawsuit against the school board. He told RedState that Judge Ezra asked him to “submit more facts and violations in the next two weeks” and that they “will be filing many more violations and expanding the case.”
For more details on this story, you can watch my previous interview with Jeremy Story below: