The grand jury indicted Carroll Independent School District (ISD) President Michelle Moore and Vice President Todd Carlton for knowingly engaging in communications outside of a public meeting. The two school board members were sending each other text messages regarding the district's Cultural Competence Action Plan (CCAP). This plan will supposedly address the school district's lack of diversity and inclusion.
The indictment stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a parent from Southlake, Tarrant County, alleging that the board members communicated regarding the district's diversity plan before an Aug. 20, 2020 meeting.
According to the Open Meetings Act, the school board is required to meet in public and school board members are not allowed to communicate with each other regarding public business in a way that keeps the contents of their interactions secret. This may be considered an unofficial, secret meeting under Texas law.
A violation is considered a misdemeanor offense, and if found guilty it can carry a fine of between $100 and $500 dollars along with confinement in jail between one to six months.
Neither Moore nor Carlton responded to requests for comments. Moore's attorney, Mark Daniel, said in a statement that his client views the proceedings as "a tremendous waste of resources."
"No one cares more or has done more to protect the safety and welfare of the children of the Carroll Independent School District than Michelle Moore," said Daniel. "On behalf of Ms. Moore, we look forward to being exonerated and her full attention once again being devoted to the education of our children."
Carroll ISD officials have taken a neutral stance on the current proceedings, stating that it is focused on "providing a safe and caring learning environment for all students."
In Dec. 2020, a judge filed a separate restraining order prohibiting Carroll ISD officials from moving forward with works related to CCAP. This cultural competence plan includes a proposal for including racial training classes in ISD schools for the cost of $425,000 for the first year, including $35,000 for speakers.
It also calls for hiring a "director of Equity and Inclusion" and "embedding diversity and inclusion training for students as an 'enrollment to graduation' process in all grades." The plan will also establish a grievance system through which Carroll ISD students can report incidents of racial discrimination. (Related: Under proposal at UT-Austin, 'commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion' would be faculty job condition.)
Many members of Tarrant County welcomed the decision to indict Moore and Carlton. Jonathan Saenz, a spokesman for the Texas Values Coalition, an organization that continues to oppose the CCAP, said he was not surprised by the indictment.
"I wouldn't be surprised if additional Carroll ISD board members are also indicted when the investigation is finally complete," said Saenz. "These policymakers are learning the hard way that just because you make the law, it doesn't mean you can break the law."
"I am blown away that two of our school board trustees are now facing criminal charges in Tarrant County for conspiring to circumvent the process and hold a secret meeting," said Bonnie Pendergrass, a parent of a Carroll ISD student. "The fact that they were arrested, posted bond, and had the nerve to show up to our school board meeting that evening is appalling."
Pendergrass wants Moore and Carlton to resign from the school board immediately. "They have no business making decisions for our children," she said.
Other members of the school district's community have criticized the CCAP for allegedly being made to push "a left-wing agenda." They argue that this agenda could infringe upon the rights of parents, punish conservative students for not following the progressive ideology the CCAP espouses and lead to the creation of "diversity police."
Meanwhile, proponents of the CCAP claim that the groups opposing the plan have been harassing their supporters for months.
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