Speakers at a recent public education conference “maligned and ridiculed” parents who expressed concerns about sexually explicit books, critical race theory, and COVID-19 mask mandates in public schools, the activist group Texas Education 911 alleges.
Jeff Crownover, Prosper ISD deputy superintendent of academics and school leadership, and attorney Juan Cruz of J. Cruz & Associates made the statements in question at the 37th annual retreat of the School Law Section of the Texas State Bar, which was held at the Gaylord Texas Hotel in Grapevine on July 21-22.
Crownover blamed “unruly parents” for the teacher shortages public schools are currently facing.
“We had people flooding our school board meetings just so big mad about … masks in schools,” Crownover said, as seen in a video provided to The Dallas Express.
Furthermore, he said teachers feel “attacked” by parents who are concerned about their children being taught “critical race theory.”
“Teachers are scared to death” of parents upset about sexually explicit materials being put in the libraries of their children’s schools, Crownover asserted.
Crownover can be heard making light of parents’ concerns and dismissing their grievances. He said parents made no effort to constructively resolve their issues and instead simply “yelled at school board meetings” and “wanted to go on social media and go nuts.”
Audience members can be heard laughing in response to Crownover’s comments.
Cruz, meanwhile, described parents who voice concerns about these issues as “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” or “CAVERs.”
He suggested that “unruly parents” who come to school board meetings with “unreasonable grievances and complaints” be issued a two-year criminal trespass warning, which would functionally block parents from setting foot on the school campus their children attend and bar them from coming to school board meetings.
The full presentation from Crownover and Cruz can be found here.
Janelle Davis, an attorney whose children attend a Texas public school, attended the conference and said she was “appalled at the way parents and community members were ridiculed throughout multiple presentations.”
“They were referred to as ‘crazy,’ ‘unruly,’ and as individuals who simply want to be mad about everything,” she said, per a press release sent to The Dallas Express by Texas Education 911. “In a separate presentation, special education parents were referred to as the most difficult to work with, to which many in the room also laughed.”
“Parents of children in public school entrust school officials with their most precious gift — their children,” she continued. “They deserve to be recognized as the primary decision-makers, treated with respect, and welcomed as collaborative partners in their children’s schools.”
“Unfortunately, it seems as though presenters and most participants at the conference only want to work with parents who do not ask questions or raise concerns,” Davis concluded.
After reaching out to Crownover for comment, The Dallas Express spoke with a Prosper ISD spokesperson who declined to comment directly on Crownover’s statements but said his presentation was intended to foster positive relationships between teachers and parents.
“The totality of the presentation was about the importance of great relationships between parents and teachers in the classroom,” said Rachel Trotter, chief of communications for Prosper ISD.
“Everyone understands that we are in a teacher shortage,” she continued. “It’s been difficult since the pandemic. … It’s important that we stay focused on what is important and that we … cultivate and maintain those relationships with parents.”
Critics maintain that the comments made by Crownover and Cruz are symptoms of a larger effort by education officials to separate parents from the education of their children.
“Many Texas school districts have developed a pattern of using authoritarian tactics to punish parents for protecting their kids, and they’re doing it with impunity,” said Texas Education 911 spokesperson Aileen Blachowski, per the aforementioned press release.
“The spiraling trust and climate in Texas public schools will not improve if profit-motivated stakeholders continue to use heavy-handed tactics and rhetoric to bully parents, and school lawyers insulate schools from the consequences of unfair dealing,” she continued. “It seems they’re more focused on maintaining power and money than on genuinely educating children.”
The Dallas Express also reached out to Cruz for comment but received no response by press time.