Uvalde parent who questioned police hire still banned from school property, lawsuit planned
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) said on Wednesday that it would proceed with litigation against the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) for not lifting a two-year property ban on Uvalde parent Adam Martinez.
UCISD did not meet the demands and deadline of May 22 that FIRE had set. Katie Kortepeter, communications campaign manager for FIRE, said in a statement to TPR that it was ready to sue.
“The school district informed us that they will allow Adam to attend his nephew's graduation but has not yet lifted his ban from school district property," she explained. "Until we receive a formal response confirming the district has lifted the ban in its entirety, Adam's First Amendment rights are still being violated, and we still plan to sue.”
The district did not respond to TPR's request for comment.
The legal fight developed in the midst of sorrow in Uvalde.
One year ago, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Martinez's son Zayon survived the shooting.
In the weeks and months that followed the massacre, grief turned to anger as it came to light that law enforcement waited more than an hour to confront the gunman and the story from state officials continued to change.
Many Uvalde residents felt their relationship to law enforcement -- particularly their trust in their ability to protect them -- was shattered. Some were motivated to demand changes in community and district leadership. Others challenged subsequent hiring decisions, particularly in who would lead UCISD's police forces.
In February, 38-year-old Martinez was banned from UCISD property for two years after questioning the hire of a new officer at a school board meeting.
In a video shared on Twitter by Martinez, he is seen talking to UCISD Police Chief Josh Gutierrez about a new police hire and the department’s standards.
“I just really wanted to have a conversation with him about it because it's really hard to get answers from them. I've sent emails before with no answers. They don't have [an] open forum like other places where you can get up and speak. He asked me to sit down, and I didn't sit down, and he ended up banning me,” Martinez said.
Along with his family, he was escorted out of the building after the video was taken. The next day, UCISD Interim Superintendent Garry Patterson issued a formal criminal trespass warning banning him from all school property, including school board meetings, for two years.
After filing a grievance, Martinez was allowed to pick up his daughter from school and attend events she is part of. He was also allowed to attend his son’s baseball practices.
Until now, Martinez was banned from attending his nephew’s graduation. In April, he had emailed Patterson about attending graduation. According to FIRE, Patterson didn’t provide an answer. Instead, he replied, “It seems like you are very fond about posting about us.”
On May 12, anxious parents picked up their children from school after a security concern. Because of the ban, Martinez was prevented from picking up his nephew, FIRE explained to TPR.
Until the school formally lifts the ban on Martinez, FIRE said it would move forward with the lawsuit.
“Mr. Martinez’s criticism is fully protected by the First Amendment and the school district’s unlawful retaliation violates his right to freedom of speech,” the group added in a statement.