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FIRE to Uvalde: Lift ban on father who questioned school safety or we'll sue
- FIRE defends Adam Martinez after district officials banned him from school property and school board meetings for two years
UVALDE, Texas, May 15, 2023 — 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.
“My community counts on me to be their voice, but the district wants to shut me up,” said Martinez. “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.”
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.
COURTESY PHOTOS OF ADAM MARTINEZ
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.”
“The First Amendment exists so that people can use their voices to advocate for social and political change,” said FIRE attorney Jeff Zeman. “Criticizing the government is protected speech, and Uvalde can’t police it.”
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.
“Banning a concerned parent from school property for two years for his speech is both ridiculous and illegal,” said FIRE attorney Josh Bleisch. “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’ll see them in court.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.
Katie Kortepeter, Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com
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