- Uvalde school district officials banned Adam Martinez from school property and school board meetings for two years
UVALDE, Texas, July 7, 2023 — The Uvalde school district has lifted its ban on a concerned parent after the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression stood up for his right to speak out at school board meetings.
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District banned Adam Martinez, a father of two students, from district property for two years for questioning the qualifications of a recently hired school district police officer. In May, FIRE sent a letter threatening to sue if the district did not lift the unconstitutional ban. Yesterday, the school district confirmed it is lifting the ban and Martinez is allowed on school property once again.
“All I’ve ever wanted was to speak my mind and be a voice for my community,” said Martinez. “I’m thankful to FIRE for taking my case, and look forward to holding our local leaders accountable.”
“FIRE was ready and willing to sue to protect Mr. Martinez’s First Amendment rights,” said FIRE attorney Conor Fitzpatrick. “Thankfully, the Uvalde school district backed down and lifted its unconstitutional ban.”
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 intervene for over an hour, the school district fired its police chief and suspended its entire police force.
Martinez, concerned about his children’s safety, is a vocal critic of some of the Uvalde school district’s decisions as it rebuilds its police department. He started a local group that organized fundraisers for victims of the shooting, engages in community service in Uvalde, and advocates for improvements in school safety. Martinez has spoken out online, at school board meetings, and directly with Uvalde administrators in support of these goals.
In February 2023, after emailing the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, Martinez discovered the school district had recently hired an officer whom the sheriff’s office deemed ineligible for rehire.
At a school board meeting on Feb. 13, Martinez approached Uvalde Schools Police Chief Josh Gutierrez, who was standing along the wall of the meeting room, to express his concerns about the hire. Gutierrez listened at first — but when it became clear that Martinez was criticizing him, he told Martinez to sit down. Concerned about his children’s safety and wanting answers, Martinez continued the conversation rather than take a seat.
As video of the school board meeting demonstrates, Martinez and Gutierrez’s conversation remained quiet and did not disrupt the proceedings in any way. Nevertheless, Gutierrez told Martinez and his family to leave the meeting, and verbally banned Martinez from school district property.
The following day, Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson notified Martinez that if he set foot on school district property in the next two years, the school district could have him arrested. The letter falsely claimed that Martinez’s behavior at the school board meeting was “disrupting and/or disturbing.”
The district relented only after FIRE threatened a lawsuit on Martinez’s behalf. Now, as a result of the agreement, Martinez will be treated like any other parent and is free to attend future school board meetings to make his voice heard.
“The school district’s administrators overstepped their authority,” said FIRE attorney Josh Bleisch. “We’re glad they finally came to their senses, but it shouldn’t take the threat of a lawsuit to remind them that the Constitution does not allow them to use their power to silence their critics.”
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.
Alex Griswold, Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
We're joined by First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza and British journalist Brendan O'Neill to discuss the state of free speech in the United States and Europe. Randazza is a First Amendment attorney and the managing partner at Randazza...