***The demand letter written by Citizens Defending Freedom general counsel can be viewed here***
Arlington, TX – Attorneys representing Citizens Defending Freedom, a nonprofit who educates citizens on protection of Constitutional rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, transparency and accountability in local government, and standing for the rule of law, sent Arlington Independent School District (“AISD”) a demand letter over allegations they violated the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) by failing to hear and discuss grievances filed by a local citizen.
The citizen, Mr. David Jarvis, has a long and distinguished career in public service. Mr. Jarvis is a former Army Ranger, Army Judge Advocate, and certified Military Judge, retiring after reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Mr. Jarvis also served 34 years as an Assistant United States Attorney with the Northern District of Texas.
Leading up to the alleged TOMA violation, Mr. Jarvis filed multiple grievances with AISD over the Board’s failure to provide transparency or responsiveness to the public on school policy and internal procedures on matters related to parental rights, use of pronouns, and gender identity issues.
To address the concerns raised by Mr. Jarvis, his grievance appeals were placed on the agenda for the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 8, 2023. To the surprise of Mr. Jarvis and citizens in attendance, the meeting was closed to the public and citizens were ordered to depart, citing exemptions in the Texas Government Code. Despite Mr. Jarvis committing on the record to only discuss board polices, the government meeting was closed to transparency to the general public claiming that Mr. Jarvis would complain about an employee or elected official.
As provided by Texas Law, generally government meetings demand openness at every stage of the deliberative process. This ensures that citizens know what their elected officials decide and how each decision is reached. “I am very puzzled by the actions of the school district because Mr. Jarvis requested an open grievance meeting and stated on the record individuals would not be named in a charge or complaint,” stated Jonathan Hullihan, General Counsel and Director of Legal Operations for Citizens Defending Freedom, “Despite this, I am curious why this statutory exemption was cited, and I wonder if AISD is aware of the recently enacted statute that a government body may not prohibit public criticism of the government body, including criticism of any act, omission, policy, procedure, program, or service..” Hullihan added, “If the Board ignores our demand letter and fails to reschedule the Level IV consolidated grievance hearing…Mr. Jarvis and Citizens Defending Freedom will seek all available legal remedies and AISD will then become very familiar with when it is appropriate to close a public meeting and the Texas Law prohibiting criticism of a government bodies policy.”
About Citizens Defending Freedom:
Founded in 2021, Citizens Defending Freedom is a non-profit organization that strategically employs county-level chapters across America to help citizens defend their faith and freedom, all while fighting for transparency in local government. Currently, Citizens Defending Freedom has official chapters in Florida, Georgia and Texas. The group is rapidly expanding its footprint, and expects to grow into one of America’s largest political nonprofits. Click here to learn more about Citizens Defending Freedom.