Keller ISD board votes to censure trustee

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The Keller school board voted 5-1 June 9 to censure new Trustee Jo Lynn Haussmann for an anti-Muslim comment she posted on Facebook about a council member in neighboring Southlake.

Haussmann cast the lone dissenting vote. Board member Cindy Lotton was absent.

Earlier in the 31/2-hour meeting, trustees and numerous residents called on Haussmann to resign.

The board’s statement about the censure again urged her to resign but said: “There is no mechanism for recalling a Trustee once she is elected to the Board of Trustees in the State of Texas nor may the Board of Trustees terminate Jo Lynn Haussmann for this or any reason because she is an elected officer and not an employee of Keller ISD.”

There is no mechanism for a recall. The policy allowing for the removal of a trustee gives a resident the power to sue to have someone taken off the board, but it pertains only to specific violations or acts that occurred as part of board member duties, district officials said.

Haussmann apologized early in the meeting and again after an hourlong executive session.

“I hope and expect to win back the respect and confidence of the residents of Keller ISD,” she said.

An hour was devoted to public comments. Of about 50 people who signed up to speak, 36 names were picked at random and were allowed to speak for two minutes. Of those who spoke, most favored resignation.

Before the meeting, attended by about 150 people, about two dozen people demonstrated outside the Keller school administration building, calling for Haussmann’s resignation. About five held signs supporting Haussmann or freedom of speech.

Haussmann posted the anti-Muslim comments on Facebook about a recently elected Southlake City Council member, saying: “SOUTH LAKE - Do you realize because SO FEW voters took the time and responsibility to VOTE in the municipal elections - YOU NOW HAVE A ‘MUSLIM’ on the City Council!!! What A SHAME!!!!!”

The comments, since deleted, referred to Southlake Councilman Shahid Shafi.

Haussmann later apologized, saying: “I made an extremely inappropriate comment on Facebook and I wanted to publicly apologize for my statement. I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused.”

Farah Janjua, a Keller parent, said that as an American Muslim, she was proud that her children didn’t see themselves as different from anyone else. She called on Haussmann to resign, saying the trustee had tarnished the district’s reputation.

A number of teachers and district employees spoke, all of them calling on Haussmann to resign. Glenda Kemmerling, a teacher at Parkwood Hill Intermediate School, said that if a teacher or campus administrator said something similar, he or she would be fired.

Haussmann had vocal supporters.

Joel Starnes, a Keller district resident, said: “I voted for her, and I believe in what she stands for. I don’t believe she stands for hate.”

Starnes said he didn’t condone what Haussmann said but believed she had learned a valuable lesson.

Board member Cindy Lotton, who said she was out of town and could not attend Monday’s meeting, sent an email to the Star-Telegram, saying she was “disappointed and angry at the recent events caused by Ms. Haussmann that have put our Board and our district in a position of questionable integrity and respect.”

“I urge Ms. Haussmann to resign her position. If she refuses to do so, I urge my fellow trustees to take action to remove her from her place as a trustee,” Lotton said.

During the meeting, other board members addressed Haussmann.

Board Vice President Craig Allen asked Haussmann to resign, saying that embracing diversity of race, religions and cultures was part of what makes the district great.

“It undermines a core value of the district when a board member does what you have done, Jo Lynn,” Allen said.

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