A man suing the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and the school board president is waiting on whether a federal judge will issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the district from limiting speech content.
Mitchell Ryan alleges his free speech constitutional rights were violated when he spoke about James Whitfield, Colleyville Heritage first Black principal, during a school board meeting on Aug. 23.
As of Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman had not ruled on a motion for a temporary restraining order against the Grapevine-Colleyville school district.
Tony McDonald, an attorney representing Ryan, said he expects Pittman will issue a ruling before Monday night’s meeting where his client intends to speak.
During the hearing Pittman asked about the district’s policy prohibiting the public from naming and criticizing district employees during public comment portions of meetings and asked why it was dated Aug. 22, a day before Ryan spoke.
Pittman also requested a copy of the Aug. 23 meeting video.
“A policy that states that citizens are prohibited from criticizing in a public forum and allegedly shutting down free speech does give me some concern,” he said.
Pittman added that it is important to balance a meeting allowing people to speak but to also have decorum to avoid “fistfights.”
“How do I craft something to balance both concerns,” Pittman said.
Ryan began speaking about Whitfield, saying he supported the principal posting photos on Facebook showing him with his wife when the board president asked him to stop using Whitfield’s name. Ryan asked if the president was trying to prevent him from speaking.
Joseph Cleveland, an attorney for the school district, said the policy dates back to 2018, but the district updated the policy on Aug. 22 after there were problems with noise and signs during recent board meetings including.
One of the meetings was on July 26 when members of the audience, including a former school board candidate, spoke about Whitfield.
Stetson Clark accused Whitfield of teaching and promoting critical race theory, and although board president Jorge Rodriguez repeatedly asked Clark to stop speaking, Clark continued to name Whitfield, which is against district policy.
Whitfield posted about the incident on Facebook, saying he could no longer be silent about the racial attacks against him. He is currently on administrative leave, and earlier this week, the school board voted unanimously to allow the superintendent to notify Whitfield of the possibility that his contract won’t be renewed.