Houston ISD Teacher Faces Termination for Alleged Threats at Board Meeting

A veteran teacher of Houston Independent School District (HISD) is in danger of losing his job after he allegedly made threatening remarks at a board meeting in June. The teacher, Larry McKinzie, claims he was only exercising his freedom of speech and demanding transparency from the board.

What Happened at the Board Meeting?

The board meeting took place on June 28, 2023, and was attended by hundreds of people who voiced their opinions on various issues affecting the district. McKinzie, who teaches eighth-grade science at Hamilton Middle School, was one of the speakers who addressed the board.

During his speech, McKinzie mentioned the home addresses and family members of some board members and suggested that he would protest at their workplaces. He also accused the board of being corrupt and incompetent and demanded that they resign.

The district interpreted McKinzie’s comments as threats and sent him a letter on July 14, 2023, informing him that Superintendent Mike Miles had proposed to terminate his employment. The letter cited several policies that McKinzie had allegedly violated, such as:

  • Relating to colleagues and supervisors with respect, courtesy, and in a professional manner
  • Following the established rules of behavior for the district and society in general as defined by local, state, and federal laws
  • Complying with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other state and federal laws
  • Not making threats of violence against school district employees, school board members, students, or parents of students
  • Not using coercive means or promising special treatment in order to influence professional decisions of colleagues

Houston ISD Teacher Faces Termination for Alleged Threats at Board Meeting

How Did McKinzie Respond to the Termination Proposal?

McKinzie denied that he threatened anyone and said he was only expressing his frustration with the board’s lack of accountability and transparency. He said he had done some online research on the board members and found some information that he thought the public should know.

“I didn’t hear a threat. I don’t think anyone in the room heard a threat. So, she actually accused him of threatening someone, and he had not done that,” said Jackie Anderson, a representative of the Houston Federation of Teachers, who supported McKinzie.

McKinzie appealed the termination proposal and requested a hearing with a Texas Education Agency (TEA) officer before the board makes its final decision. The hearing is scheduled for August 31, 2023.

What Is the Context Behind the Board Meeting?

The board meeting was held amid a turbulent time for HISD, which is facing a state takeover by TEA due to poor academic performance and governance issues. The takeover was approved by the Texas Supreme Court in June 2023, after a long legal battle between HISD and TEA.

The takeover means that TEA will appoint a board of managers to replace the elected board of trustees and a conservator to oversee the superintendent. The takeover will last until HISD meets certain academic and governance standards set by TEA.

Many HISD stakeholders, including teachers, parents, students, and community members, have opposed the takeover and expressed their concerns about losing local control and representation. They have also criticized TEA for its lack of transparency and accountability in its decision-making process.

The board meeting was an opportunity for them to voice their opinions and demand answers from the board and TEA officials.

What Are the Implications of McKinzie’s Case?

McKinzie’s case raises questions about the limits of free speech and the rights of teachers to speak out on public issues affecting their profession and students. It also highlights the tension and mistrust between HISD employees and the board amid the state takeover.

McKinzie has been with HISD for 29 years and has received positive evaluations from his principal and students. He said he loves teaching and hopes to keep his job.

“I’m not going to let them take away my livelihood,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *