Collin County Politics: Backsliding

December 7, 2021

Covid Update: Collin County has 133,653 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,608 more cases than I reported last week and 1,175 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 12 people who died since last week). I’m guessing the Thanksgiving holiday get-togethers may be what’s driving the sharp increase but omicron is also officially in Texas. The increase also may be due to people thinking Covid is over. It isn’t!

State-wide: So…lots of fun back and forth on mask mandates in schools. In November, Federal Judge Lee Yeakel decided that Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mandates in schools violated the rights of students with disabilities. However, the super-conservative U.S. 5th Circuit temporarily halted Yeakel’s ruling saying they didn’t think the Covid risks were that big of a deal. “The risks of contracting COVID-19 for these plaintiffs are certainly real, but the alleged injury to plaintiffs from the enforcement of [the governor’s order] is, at this point, much more abstract.” Sure. That sounds reasonable and non-partisan.

They also took issue with Yeakel’s “blanket injunction” prohibiting the enforcement of Abbott’s ban in all of Texas’ public schools, calling the decision overbroad. They thought his ruling should’ve only applied to the 7 plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Pretty ridiculous. I’d love to know if there’s anything we can do about the 5th Circuit judges because they’re terrible.

The only districts not affected by this ruling are the ones like Dallas and Richardson ISDs that are involved in their own lawsuit. To be fair, all this back and forth doesn’t have much of an effect on most of the schools in Collin County since most school boards are wholeheartedly toeing the Republican line. This is why we need to vote in every election and all the way down the ballot! Judges and school board trustee elections matter!

County-wide: In case you haven’t been paying attention, our democracy is in trouble. Many sources, including the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s annual report on the Global State of Democracy, say the US has been added to an annual list of “backsliding” democracies for the first time. It will surprise no one to hear signs of the backslide started in 2016 (I wonder what happened that year) and began a “visible deterioration” in 2019. If you’re not worried, you should be. This is bad.

Part of the problem is the disappearance of local journalism. Reporters used to show up to every city council and school board meeting. They had their “beats” and knew the ins and outs of the issues and the elected officials themselves. The officials knew they were being watched, so they behaved. Journalists kept them honest or, if they weren’t, dropped their drawers in public so everyone would know and, hopefully, vote them out or send them to prison. We no longer have those watchdogs. Reporters cover a few of the meetings and issues but rarely have the time or motivation to provide context or do the background digging necessary to uncover the big picture.

The lack of information negatively affects our democracy. People who live in areas with poor local news coverage are less likely to vote, and when they do, they are more likely to do so strictly along party lines. Sound familiar? There’s also the issue of trust. Many believe local sources are more trustworthy than the mainstream media but if those are disappearing, then who do we trust? We’ve already seen what happens when people are misinformed. The only way we can talk to other people is with some common understanding of the facts, like whether or not our water is polluted (it is) or what kinds of programs our schools are offering.

With this column, I’ve tried to step into the breach. But I’m a psychologist, not a journalist. I have a pretty demanding day job and I depend heavily on others reporting back to me about what’s going on locally. I need help. Desperately. If you want our democracy to gain traction again, every single one of you needs to step up. The time to act is now. Come on, it’ll be fun! Save your democracy AND spend time with like-minded people. What could be better?

Allen School Board: A family in Allen filed a restraining order against AISD for the treatment of their immuno-compromised child and the lack of services offered this year. They go to court next week to speak with the judge and seek a permanent injunction. This is an unusual move but the family already tried all forms of resolution except due process because they don’t have the time to waste. Filing for due process today means you won’t receive a final ruling until the end of April at the earliest.

The child in question learned through homebound services, which involves a teacher going to his home 4 hours per week and augmenting this with a virtual component. This has worked well for the last 7 years. However, part of the district’s refusal to take appropriate precautions against Covid this year included taking away any child’s ability to receive services away from the school. Instead, they’re insisting that someone who’s deeply immune-compromised (he has a port in his chest for the monthly treatment to receive white blood cells and t cells since his body doesn’t produce any naturally) should attend school in person regardless of how many Covid infections they’ve had throughout the semester.

I don’t know what they’re thinking. Students who’ve been homebound for years are now being told they no longer can access these services, regardless of the consequences to their health. Does AISD care at all about its students? Failing that, do they care about obeying the law? You cannot legally take away services without a new medical or psychological evaluation, neither of which has been done.

AISD is also refusing to respect Riley’s Rule, a new law that went into effect in September. Riley’s Rule says that students who have life-altering medical diagnoses cannot be punished for excess absences due to medical reasons. In their ultimate wisdom (which is decreasing by the day), AISD refuses to respect it, saying they – not numerous specialists – will be the ones to decide if this child is eligible for medical exemptions. The law says nothing about a district making that decision. Of course it doesn’t. Having a school district make medical decisions is like having politicians control school curricula and women’s health decisions. Neither will lead to good outcomes.

Little Elm School Board: More than 200 people showed up to Little Elm’s “listening session” about the school protest that led to police brutality and the arrest of four students. People were understandably angry. Parent Anna De Luna went to the school that day and could hear students screaming and crying before she was let in by a student gasping for air. As the only adult around, she wiped off students’ faces while several more reached out to her for help. That’s not something people are going to forget any time soon.

For their part, Little Elm officials said the viral videos don’t show everything that led up to the use of force, that some students assaulted officers and a large group of students attempted to break into an administrator’s office, leaving some in fear for their safety. I’m sure all of that is true but it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. How did the students get so far out of control? Were there no safeguards in place to prevent that? Are there avenues for students to discuss grievances so their anger doesn’t reach a fever pitch? What were the police supposed to do?

School Superintendent Daniel Gallagher opened the listening session by saying there is an appropriate way to protest at the district, which was the case during a student-led demonstration last year after the murder of George Floyd. I hope no one is truly comparing the two because they’re totally different. One had to do with a larger societal issue while the other was about the school’s mistreatment of students. This one was personal and that adds intensity.

One silver lining is that the Little Elm community is coming together to find solutions. The school is creating an independent committee to review the district’s sexual harassment reporting and investigating process (that’s way past due) and an independent investigation also will review the sexual harassment claims that led to the student protest. Little Elm police are reviewing their response during the demonstration. Last week, the NAACP met with the mayor, school leaders, and the police to review the tapes. I look forward to seeing what solutions will emerge from that meeting.

McKinney School Board: MISD has this weird policy that any yahoo can complain about (“challenge”) a book in a school’s library and then the district solicits community feedback about the offending book. Apparently, the family of grifter Paul Chabot – who’s running for HD61 –often challenges books. Figures. Has anyone else noticed that the Republican candidates continue to be the worst people? There’s no bottom. Given this situation, we need as many people as possible to comment positively on The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the offending book) for both Boyd and High. Both high schools receiving a challenge on the same book simultaneously sounds like a coordinated effort.

If you don’t know anything about the book, please consider commenting about the danger of this policy. As it stands, anyone can complain about any book and then the community feedback comes down to how many people each side can muster up to comment. This is bad. I don’t want the QAnon cult members hanging around Dealey Plaza waiting for JFK Jr. to arrive deciding what reading materials should be in schools. We pay librarians – people with the education, credentials, and experience necessary to make these decisions – for a reason and we need to trust them. I hate to keep bringing this up but do you know who were big fans of censorship and banning books? Nazis. Are they supposed to be our role models now?

Liberal Women’s Action Network (LWAN): If you enjoy reading these columns, please join LWAN (men welcome). I can’t write these columns without a lot of help! If we want true change, we must know what’s going on. That means monitoring every city council and school board in Collin County. This is something anyone can do and it’s interesting work. Please contact me at and let me know if you’re interested.

Comments 2

  1. Is anyone as irritated by Paul Chabot’s campaign signs as I am? He bills himself as “MILITARY COMMANDER” and flies two American flags on every campaign sign along the streets of HD 61. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could be challenging Frederick Frazier from the RIGHT, but I guess Chabot is trying to do it.

    1. Post

      Yes! I get irritated every time I see one of his signs. The expense of the flags just shows he has some funding and no one calls themself a military commander. It’s silly. But yep, hard (and sad) to believe Frazier may be the best option on the Republican side of the ticket.

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