Keller’s Haussmann mired in further allegations of privacy violations, abuse of office

Posted on 31 Aug 2015 at 2:12pm

Jo Lynn Haussmann

New allegations of misconduct have emerged against Keller Independent School District trustee Jo Lynn Haussmann, including a possible violation of federal student privacy laws.

The allegations stem from Haussmann’s appearance on The Wells Report, a conservative talk radio show on Wednesday, Aug. 12, a day before the board was set to vote on amending its anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Haussmann, in the interview, discusses disciplinary action taken against Casey Akers who has lead the push for the LGBT protections after Akers was told by school officials it wasn’t appropriate to propose to a female friend who is straight.

According to Haussmann, Akers had an “agenda.”

“Well, you know, um, I believe the bottom line in all of this, is the fact that first of all there was a rule broken, a school rule on the promposal that they tried to do. Or that Casey tried to do,” Haussman said.

“Disciplinary action apparently wasn’t followed through appropriately once she came to the school board. I mean, in other words, she comes to the school board, she’s upset, now she wants to change policies. Instead of telling her ‘Well we can’t change policies, you did something wrong, you didn’t follow the rules, now there, you know, the consequences go with that’. So now instead of just being that you’re breaking a rule, all of a sudden you’re opening the door wide for her to be able to with her friend and her mother to sit in a committee meeting to change the policies. Which is irrelevant to her, really, to getting in trouble. I mean it’s like this was just used to try to, you know and, push their agenda,” she added.

Discussing a student’s private information violates the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, without prior consent from the student or a student’s family member.

Under FERPA, the student or student’s family can only disclose confidential information.

Haussmann’s opponents are now asking where she got the information after Ken Romines, later identified as her son, used the same language while speaking against the policy changes at the Aug. 13 meeting.

If she obtained that privileged information in her capacity as a school board member with intent to slander, as some suggest, Haussmann could be in big trouble.

Per state law, a school official, including a trustee, has the right to access district records, including a student’s records, without filing an open records request. In this case, Haussmann, like any other trustee, has access to the student’s records even there is no compelling educational reason. For a student like Akers, the district has the authority to redact any privileged information.

I’ve sent an email to Haussmann requesting comment.

We also want to point out — to Ms. Haussmann and her supporters — that in asking to perform a promposal, Casey Akers didn’t break any rules. It is our understanding that after being told promposals were not allowed, Akers did not go through with it. So therefore, Casey Akers broke no rules. It appears, however, that the question of whether Jo Lynn Haussmann broke a rule or two is still up in the air.


Registration open for 2016 Creating Change Conference

Posted on 31 Aug 2015 at 1:59pm

Screen shot 2015-08-31 at 1.45.18 PMRegistration is now open for the 2016 Creating Change Conference, taking place Jan. 20-24 at the Hilton Chicago. Go here to register.

Early Bird, limited income/student, presenter and age waiver registrations are available now. The Early Bird rate of $325 is available only until Oct. 31, when registration cost increases to $400.

Conference organizers are also accepting workshop proposals through Sept. 30. Submit those proposals here. The deadline to apply for the Eric Rofes Scholarship to cover registration fees is Dec. 1. Those who live in the Chicago area and want to register to host a Creating Change attendee can do that here.

You can reserve your hotel room here or request community housing placement here. Register to be a volunteer here.

Creating Change, held each year, is presented by the National LGBTQ Task Force. The Task Force, founded in 1973, is the country’s oldest nonprofit organization advocating for LGBTQ equality.

Creating Change, started 27 years ago is an organizing and skills-building conference for LGBTQ activists and allies working for equality. It was started one year after the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights as a way of giving activists the skills needed to carry on the battle for equality.


Lakewood Theater threatened because why save anything worth saving?

Posted on 31 Aug 2015 at 12:19pm

Lakewood TheaterIsn’t it amazing what isn’t landmarked in Dallas?

The latest building under threat is the Lakewood Theater in East Dallas. The theater was undergoing renovation, but that work has stopped. A week ago, the theater’s old green seats with thick red padding were removed from the building and tossed in the dumpster. Speculation is the building will be torn down.

(Another clue: this is Dallas. The building’s more than 20 years old. There’s not enough parking within 10 feet of the building. General rule: tear it down.)

The Lakewood Theater was built in 1938 and is known for its frescoes and art deco architecture. Karl Hoblizelle was the original owner. He also built the Majestic in Downtown Dallas.

With multiplex theaters opening all over Dallas, the theater began showing second run films. Attendance decreased and after a showing of The Last Picture Show in 1983, the theater closed.

The next year, the theater was renovated and reopened with first-run films. In 1988, it celebrated its 50th anniversary, but by 1993, attendance dwindled and the Lakewood closed again.

In 1994, new owners leased the theater to Keith McKeague. He used the theater for innovative programming and hosted Gaybingo for years before it moved to S4. After a flood in the basement and other setbacks, the owners refused to renew his lease.

Recently Viva Dallas Burlesque has staged a monthly show at the theater with Patti le Plae Safe as emcee.

Alamo Drafthouse has wanted the theater for years.

There’s a petition to the Dallas Landmark Commission to save the Lakewood that reads:

We, the citizens of Dallas, petition the Landmark Commission to initiate landmark designation for the preservation of the Lakewood Theater, the iconic landmark of East Dallas.

Letter to:
City of Dallas
Landmark Commission
We, the citizens of Dallas, petition the Landmark Commission to initiate landmark designation for the preservation of the Lakewood Theater, the iconic landmark of East Dallas.

It is our expectation that the theater as a whole may be appropriately preserved and utilized so that future generations may also know and experience the unique qualities that have endeared it to so many previous generations.

About 2,000 people have already signed the petition and you can sign it here.


Hood County couple denied marriage license settles with clerk

Posted on 31 Aug 2015 at 12:19pm

Jim Cato

Attorneys for a Hood County same-sex couple have settled with a county clerk who had denied them a marriage license because of her personal religious beliefs.

Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton announced Monday, Aug. 17, that they settled their suit against Hood County Clerk Katie Lang for almost $44,000 in attorney’s fees.

After the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision affirming marriage equality, Lang refused to issue the couple a marriage license because of her personal religious beliefs against marriage equality. She also initially refused to allow anyone in her office to issue a marriage license to Cato and Stapleton, or any other same-sex couple.

Cato and Stapleton sued Lang and chose to proceed with the lawsuit even though Lang changed the “policy” for her office and they were able to get their marriage license from the clerk’s office the day after filing suit.

As David Taffet points out in this Instant Tea post about a county clerk in Kentucky who continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses to any couple to avoid having to issue a license to a same-sex couple, a 2006 case, Garcetti v Ceballo, limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job. Employers must make some accommodations for religious beliefs, but employees must still do the core, central duties of their jobs. In the opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that a public official is only protected only when engaged in an issue as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties.


Rowan County Clerk appeals her refusal to do her job to Elena Kagan

Posted on 31 Aug 2015 at 9:54am

Rowan County, Ky. Clerk Kim Davis

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday afternoon to have a justice review her appeal to allow her to continue not doing her job — i.e. refusing to issue marriage licenses to anybody to avoid having to issue licenses to same-sex couples — on religious grounds, according to WKYT, the CBS affiliate in Lexington, Ky.

She asked a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against her, but stayed his decision, to extend his stay. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied her request for a stay and the district court denied her extension.

On the federal level, Justice Elena Kagan is the circuit justice for the Sixth Circuit and would receive Davis’ request for a stay. Kagan voted on the side of same-sex marriage in the Windsor and Obergefell decisions.

Also on Friday, Rowan County’s attorney referred a charge of official misconduct against Davis to the state Attorney General. Only the state can remove Davis from office.

Davis has refused to issue any marriage licenses and refused to allow anyone in her office to issue any licenses because of her religious objection to same-sex marriage. Her religious beliefs clearly don’t extend to divorce, because Davis is on her fourth husband.

A small rally in support of same-sex marriage was held at the Rowan County courthouse on Friday and a larger group gathered on Saturday. A group supporting Davis also appeared.

As for Davis’ claims of religious freedom, a 2006 case, Garcetti v Ceballo, limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job. Employers must make some accommodations for religious beliefs, but employees must still do the core, central duties of their jobs. In the opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that a public official is only protected only when engaged in an issue as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties.


Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Posted on 29 Aug 2015 at 8:38am
anonymous Taffet

An anonymous Taffet with her purchase from Green Man Cannabis

Earlier this month, I visited Colorado for the first time since the ban was lifted.

Same-sex marriage? Eh. That’s old hat in Colorado. I’m talking about the ban on recreational marijuana that was lifted last year.

Colorado voters overwhelming decided to legalize recreational marijuana. Despite this being a very regulated new industry, there are now more pot stores — I’m sorry, Colorado, I mean cannabis dispensaries — than there are Starbucks or McDonald’s restaurants in the state. The state’s a little touchy about how we reefer, I mean refer, to their huge new industry.

The state’s raking in the bucks. With a prescription, purchasers of medical marijuana pay just the sales tax. Recreational users, however, pay sales tax plus any state and local tax. In Denver, that means 20.5 percent tax.

I was in Colorado to visit family. We converged on a cousin who lives south of Denver and relatives came from Mississippi, California and London. Us out-of-staters decided we had to visit one of the state’s newest attractions. Oh, we made it to Garden of the Gods in the hills below Pike’s Peak. And we crossed the Continental Divide, drove over mountains more than two miles high in Rocky Mountain National Park, photographed marmots, elk and mountain sheep and shopped in Boulder and Estes Park.

But our visit to Green Man Cannabis in Denver was, well, fascinating.

Of course, I wasn’t buying any for myself. The trip was entirely inspired by one of my cousins. Really.

First, find a location. Basically, if you’re in Denver and there’s a shopping center, you’ll find a dispensary. They’re out, they’re open, and they have big, well marked signs.

Next, you must show ID. Colorado residents may purchase up to an ounce a day. Out-of-staters may purchase ¼ ounce in a single transaction.

With IDs checked, pass through the door to the dispensary. Stoners — I mean salespeople — have the product behind the counter. These salespeople are well educated about their product. Our saleswoman had quite extensive personal experience with the products she was selling. Any retailer would be proud to have salespeople with such good product knowledge. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had actually sampled much of the product in order to enhance her selling ability.

In their bid for professionalism, the weed stores — I’m sorry, cannabis dispensaries — have an entirely new lingo. They don’t sell pot brownies. Instead, there’s a variety of “edibles” — hard candies, cookies, chews, drinks and tincture. They don’t sell reefers, but you can buy pre-rolled product. You can also purchase topicals: “medicine that can be applied directly to the skins surface for muscle and joint pain as well as skin irritation relief.”

And of course there are cannabis varietals that are displayed in clumps in glass jars. Our saleswoman did a good job of explaining the difference between each of the samples and recommended just what she thought we — I mean my cousin — would enjoy.

She was also clear on the law. The business is strictly regulated. My cousin was leaving the state the next day. No, she shouldn’t pack it in her suitcase. Pot is strictly forbidden on federal property. That means don’t bring it to national parks, national forests, federal court buildings or airports.

Even though the city of Denver operates Denver International Airport and Denver police are responsible for its safety, federal law is followed. So Denver police who have more important things to do will reluctantly — pot tax is where their next raise will come from — arrest anyone caught with weed in the airport. And they use sniffer dogs, although we didn’t see any at the airport.

Interestingly the ban on bringing pot into a federal court building implies it’s perfectly fine to bring it into a county courthouse.

The law prohibits smoking in public. That’s why edibles have become so popular. There are no laws about sucking on candy in public. And there are DUI laws with a legal limit for THC in the blood while driving.

According to one anonymous source — OK, according to one cousin who lives in Colorado — quite a few dispensaries opened and closed quickly. The remaining ones are run by serious business people, many of whom are now expanding to multiple locations.

In January 2014, pot sales began slowly and the state only collected about $3 million in tax revenue. By July 2015, marijuana tax revenues topped $10 million for the first time.

The state and the dispensaries are having a problem, however — where to put their money. Banks are federally chartered and regulated and have been reluctant to take deposits from dispensaries or even from the state, because they could be seen as laundering drug money.

And the rest of the trip? You owe yourself a drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.


Chef at Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson allegedly refuses to cater same-sex wedding

Posted on 28 Aug 2015 at 4:02pm
Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn Richardson

Daren Merchant and Rick O’Connor were planning to hold their wedding for Jan. 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson.

Planning stopped, however, after the chef at the hotel allegedly compared them to Caitlin Jenner (not sure why that’s an insult, but it was meant that way) and said that he wouldn’t cook for a gay couple. The story was reported on Fox 4.

Shortly after the incident, Merchant received a damage control letter from Hilton’s regional corporate office, but he said he’s received nothing from the hotel since.

“As of now the plans are on hold,” Merchant said. “This took the wind out of our sails, especially after more than two decades of wanting this so badly and never thinking it would happen in our lifetime.”

Dallas Voice has been trying to get through to Merchant and O’Connor’s contact at the hotel.

“I do really think that they were hoping this would just fade away,” Merchant said. “All I wanted was an answer but never got it. Believe me, it’s mind blowing how much outpouring of supports we have gotten.”

Since that conversation, Merchant has received a call from the president of Texas Hotel And Lodging Association on behalf of the hotel to work out a resolution. Merchant said the proposed resolution sounds reasonable and the couple will discuss it over the weekend.

More on the story next week, hopefully with a happy ending.


In text exchange, Haussmann, Schofield wanted vote for LGBT protections

Posted on 28 Aug 2015 at 12:03pm

Jo Lynn Haussmann

According to Keller Independent School District trustees Jo Lynn Haussmann and Brad Schofield, opposing a policy meant to protect LGBT students and employees is, in fact, about the kids.

At least that’s what the two implied in text messages on Thursday, Aug. 13.

The exchange was prompted when, just hours before the board was set to vote on the protections, Superintendent Randy Reid texted the board, recommending they pull the vote from the agenda.

“Just an FYI…I just sent all of you an email to your [school district accounts] recommending that we pull the antidiscrimination policy tonight. Please read and confirm so we can proceed with getting information out,” he wrote, according to records obtained by the Dallas Voice.

“Count this as my ok,” replied board president Craig Allen.

“Mine as well,” Karina Davis replied.

“With hesitation, mine too,” wrote Ruthie Keyes.

Jo Lynn Haussmann disagreed, however.

“I feel we should go through with the vote. We’ve had plenty of time to make any changes. I requested a meeting between the preview [and] vote to have a team discussion and it was refused. We could have even used our Team meeting to do that. Apparently the majority feels good about it as is. You said you supported it 100 percent,” she wrote.

Postponing wouldn’t make any difference, she continued.

“You said you wanted to protect the students. If we postpone the vote, your opportunity to do that is not going to be in effect when school starts,” she wrote.

Another opponent of the policy, Brad Schofield, agreed with Haussmann.

“I think we should not hesitate and move forward with a vote. The kids are counting on all of us,” he wrote. “Don’t let them down.”

Absolutely, Haussmann replied in all caps.

“I have pulled the item,” Reid replied.

But Haussmann wasn’t just concerned about the kids; she was concerned about open meetings laws as well.

“Did everyone vote? I was just thinking, ‘Won’t this be considered an Open Meeting [sic]?”

The decision to pull the item is within the superintendent’s jurisdiction.

“I really wasn’t asking for a vote. Just your opinion,” Reid replied.

In an e-mail to the Voice earlier this week, Haussmann wrote her opposition to the policy was not “against the LGBT’s [sic]” but a student breaking a rule.

Evidently it wasn’t just about breaking the rules either.

It was actually just as other opponents of the policy have said: it was about the kids.

Who knew?


Rowan County Clerk continues to defy court

Posted on 27 Aug 2015 at 11:57am

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

Even though the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled “little or no likelihood that the clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal,” and ordered her to begin issuing marriage licenses, Rowan, Ky. County Clerk Kim Davis’ office continues to refuse to issue any marriage licenses.

A gay couple applied for their marriage license for the third time. A deputy clerk said he was under orders to continue to turn them away.

Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court ruled that Davis’ religious convictions don’t excuse her from performing the official duties of her job and upholding her oath of office. That court stayed its ruling, but yesterday, the Sixth Circuit ruled against her.

Davis — who has herself been married four times — claims the lower court stay is still in place. The couple claims the Sixth Circuit ruling takes precedence. She is being defended by the conservative Liberty Counsel.

The couple said they will try to get their marriage license again next week.


WDBJ killer claims in manifesto to be gay man who faced discrimination

Posted on 26 Aug 2015 at 9:57pm

Vester Flanagan

Vester Flanagan, the man believed to have murdered WBDJ7 TV news reporter Alyson Parker and cameraman Adam Ward during a live broadcast earlier today (Wednesday, Aug. 26), reportedly left a suicide note in which he claimed he wanted to start a race war and that he was a gay man who had faced discrimination and sexual harassment when he worked at the Roanoke, Virginia TV station.

WDBJ’s website features tributes to the station’s two slain employees.

Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams as an on-air reporter for WDBJ, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound several hours after shooting his former coworkers live on air at about 6:45 a.m., EST. After the shooting, he apparently faxed a 23-page manifesto to ABC News in which he made the accusations of discrimination and harassment.

Flanagan also apparently posted a video he made of himself killing Parker and Ward to his social media accounts after the shooting.

Law enforcement officers located Flanagan in his car on I-66 in Farquier County, Virginia. He sped off but shortly afterward crashed his car, and when officers pulled him from the car they discovered he had shot himself. He died later at a hospital.

murder victims

Murder victims Alison Parker, left, and Adam Ward

He was described in CNN reports as a “disgruntled former employee” of the TV station who was fired two years ago. He filed a complaint against the station with the EEOC, but the complaint was dismissed.

Also according to CNN, posts on Flanagan’s Twitter account today accused Parker had made racist remarks and that Ward once complained about him to WDBJ’s human resources department after the two worked together. But WDBJ7 Station Manager Jeff Marks said that Flanagan and Parker had never worked at the station at the same time.

CNN reports that court documents indicate that on the day Flanagan was fired from WDBJ, police had to be called to escort him from the building, and that Ward filmed Flanagan’s angry outburst as he was removed from the premises.

CNN  reported that Flanagan had worked for several TV news stations, never staying long and more than once leaving on less-than-amiable terms. Flanagan also once sued a different former employer for discrimination. That suit was settled out of court.

In the suicide note manifesto sent to ABC News, Flanagan allegedly said he had been motivated by Dylann Roof, the white supremacist charged with murdering nine African-Americans during a Bible study in June at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, to start a race war. According to an excerpt from the manifesto posted on, Flanagan wrote: “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” also reports that Flanagan said in the fax to ABC that suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, he has been attacked by black men and white females, and that he was attacked for being a gay, black man.