Round Rock ISD Trustee Dr. Mary Bone votes against resolution condemning intolerance, hate speech
Resolution passes 5-1
The Round Rock Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to approve a resolution condemning actions that divide the community and incite hatred, at the Jan. 20 meeting. Trustee Dr. Mary Bone cast the only dissenting vote.
Defining Hate Speech
Prior to the resolution’s passing, Round Rock ISD Board Vice President Tiffanie Harrison said she agreed with a public comment by a speaker who recommended condemning the actions of individuals, rather than the individuals themselves. Harrison said she did not feel the same way about groups because there are hate groups whose purpose and intention is towards hatred.
“I do agree that if we’re doing this work, then we uplift the humanity of people first, and always, even when that’s very, very difficult,” Harrison said.
Harrison said the Board received lots of emails about the resolution, some threatening litigation for “removing freedom of speech.” Harrison said she checked with legal counsel, and the resolution does not limit anyone’s First Amendment rights.
“This is not a policy, it’s a resolution … We’re not saying that we’re going to remove or prevent someone from speaking,” Harrison said.
Harrison explained that the resolution is a general condemnation statement that Round Rock ISD promotes diversity and protects all groups, and that Round Rock ISD rejects and condemns groups and individuals who promote hate, violence or intolerance.
Harrison then asked other Trustees if there was any consensus on amending the language of the resolution to reflect the condemning of “actions,” rather than “individuals.”
Trustee Cory Vessa, who requested the agenda item, said she was fine with the amended language to the resolution. Vessa then referenced the recent situation in Colleyville, Texas, where an antisemitic gunman held hostages for a 10-hour standoff at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
“Those things should be condemned. Period. Condemned,” Vessa said. “I’m all for promoting respect, but there are things that need to be condemned.”
Trustee Dr. Mary Bone said she wanted paragraph 7 of the resolution, which states that there is “a growing number of groups and individuals who threaten our democracy by seeking to incite hatred and violence,” to be stricken. Bone said she wanted the paragraph removed “unless somebody can specifically tell me who these groups are, and who we’re talking about.”
Bone then asked the Board to clarify what they mean by “hate, intolerance and violence.”
“Well, there’s a pretty easy definition of hate speech,” Vessa responded. “So that’s not really too hard.”
“OK, can you tell me?” Bone said.
Vessa read two definitions of hate speech, which she said she already sent to Trustee Danielle Weston who was absent from the Jan. 20 meeting due to illness.
Hate speech, Vessa said, is defined as “abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation” and “any form of expression through which speakers intend o vilify, humiliate or incite hatred against a group or class of persons.”
Bone tried interrupting Vessa during the second definition, and then thanked her for the clarification.
“So I just want to understand this because last week we had public comment where there was definitely some of that kind of speech used against people,” Bone said. “I’m just wondering what this means. Does this resolution mean that we are going to kind of cut those people off?”
Clearly, Bone was not listening to Harrison’s previous statements, explaining the difference between a policy and a resolution.
“No, I just don’t like it,” Vessa responded to Bone. “I can’t stop people from making posts or saying things in public comment … I can’t stop them, but I can tell people I don’t like it. I condemn it. Stop. This is not good for our District. It’s not good for our state. It’s not good for our nation. It’s not good for humanity.”
Harrison, again, reiterates the difference between a policy and a resolution, and asked for recommendations on how to proceed with amending the resolution’s language.
It is explained to the Board that Bone, who asked to strike paragraph 7, would have to first make her amended motion. So, Bone made a motion to approve the resolution, amending it to strike paragraph 7 and amend the language.
With no second, the motion failed.
Then Vessa made a motion to approve the resolution, with only the amended language, which passed 5-1.
Crazies on Committees
During the public comment portion of the Jan. 20 meeting, Leslie Winters, a member of the Round Rock ISD Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC), proudly proclaims she is the Chair of the Williamson County Chapter of Moms For Liberty, a far-right Conservative nonprofit that claims to advocate for “parental rights.”
In reality, the group advocates against Covid-19 mask and vaccine mandates as well as school curricula that mention LGBTQ+ rights, race, critical race theory or discrimination. The group also advocates for the banning of books, specifically those that address gender and/or sexuality issues.
Winters begins her comment complaining about a non-mandatory teacher training at a middle school in Round Rock ISD, that included what she called “disturbing” slides that said, “Do not tell parents.”
While she did not provide additional information about the slides, it is likely a safe bet the slides in question are related to students sharing their gender identity or sexual orientation, which they may be unable to do at home, with a teacher or educator they trust.
Thus, Winters’ comments reflect anti-LGBTQ+ ideologies, more than any concern for “transparency” or “parents’ rights.”
Not only did Winters proudly assert her position as the local Chair for Moms for Liberty, she made sure to read their mission statement.
“Our mission at Moms For Liberty is dedicated to fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering our parents to defend our parent rights at all levels of government,” Winters said.
Another Round Rock ISD resident spoke later during public comment about Winters’ participation on the SHAC committee.
“Isn’t it sort of a conflict of interest for somebody who’s suing the District to serve on a committee, in regards to student health, especially given that said person is suing the District over a mask mandate?” Bob Kazamakis asked.