HOUSTON — Houston ISD has dropped the criminal trespassing and resisting arrest charges filed against several parents after disgruntled protestors caused a disruption at Tuesday night's school board meeting, officials confirmed. Multiple parents had been detained during the meeting after many became irate in response to a proposal to transform nearly a dozen under-performing schools into charter schools.
During the commotion, one of the parents was dragged out of the meeting by police.
The controversial proposal would turn 10 HISD schools over to Energized for Stem Academy, which currently operates three charter schools in HISD. The takeover included Kashmere, Wheatley and Worthing high schools; Henry Middle School; Woodson, Blackshear, Dogan, Highland Heights, Mading and Wesley elementary schools.
The board was on its third agenda item when an HISD Parent Advocates member stepped to the podium to address her concerns. According to witnesses, the woman went over her allotted time and was asked by HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones to be seated. When the woman refused, she was ordered out of the meeting by police at the request of Skillern-Jones.
"I fully support the right to protest by anyone. Yesterday, the Board had to deliberate the educational trajectory of 6,000 students and the fate of 10 schools - one of the most important decisions in HISD history. This requires and deserves to be done in an environment where everyone can be heard and respected,"
Skillern-Jones added that she was saddened by this outcome and takes full responsibility for calling the recess, which she says caused more discord.
"The one positive result from the chaos is that we did postpone a hasty decision, gained some additional perspective and broadened our considerations," she said. "I thank the people who have called me on the carpet and am humble enough to accept their criticism as well as thank those who have called and texted their support and understanding. I appreciate both."
"When the cops started to remove her that's when the other protesters became upset and started shouting '"take your hands off her,'" Sam Oser said.
The police then detained Kandice Webber with Black Lives Matter Houston and a nurse from Ben Taub Hospital. Following the detaining of the women, all of the board meeting attendees were asked to leave.
"Based on last night’s events, HISD PD has reviewed the scenarios of the arrests of the two citizens, and we have conferred with DA Ogg. After this review of both being charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest, the DA and HISD PD have agreed with the DA’s office on the retraction of charges. No further action is needed and the two detainees are being released now," HISD officials said in a statement Wednesday.
HISD released a statement that read, in part:
Per board policy BED LOCAL, audience members shall not be disruptive or abusive during the board meeting. While the district appreciates and shares the passion the community has for the students and schools and welcomes public input, audience members are expected to be respectful and observe decorum so that their views may be heard and appreciated.
During Tuesday night’s workshop, after continuous disruption and multiple outbursts from members of the audience, and after several verbal requests from the Board President to adhere to the rules, attendees were instructed to clear the room and called for a recess. Many refused to leave and a scuffle ensued. An HISD police officer sustained minor injuries.