Red Oak ISD School Board Member Responds To Off-mic Comment

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ROISD Trustee Penny Story Under Fire For Hot Mic Comment

RED OAK –  Friday night’s Special Red Oak ISD school board meeting addressed a statement made by Place 5 Board Secretary Penny Story.

Some said they were shocked by the trustee’s statement.

The controversial statement Story made was on July 27 during a meeting in which her microphone was not turned off.

During a discussion regarding face coverings for students under COVID-19 rules, Story said “You don’t understand this is Sharia Law face coverings. This is ridiculous.”

Story spoke at the Special School board meeting Friday night regarding her comment and said she was surprised at the flurry of discussion.

Story’s remark about Sharia Law is referring to a set of laws and ethics followed by Muslims.

ROISD Leadership Responds, It’s Up To The Voters To Make A Change

On Friday, Story opened her remarks by addressing Superintendent Brenda Sanford, School board President John Anderson who had explained before Story made her comments that he wanted everyone to be on the same page “Under Texas law it does not provide for a recall of trustees and trustees themselves may not remove a fellow trustee from office. A school board member may be removed from office initiated by the county or District Attorney… The reason I read these to you is the reality is the board has little to no power to do anything over another board member who sits on the board. They are elected officials and held accountable by the voters. I wanted to get that out on the table so we all understand what the expectations are and what we can and can’t do.”

Story said in her comments “We are here tonight because there has been a flurry of public comments, good and bad, about my simple, non-judgmental statement  ‘Sharia Law face covering.’ A comment I made basically to myself during a lengthy school board discussion about which of many governmental rules to follow for face masks.”

She reminded those at the meeting her campaign for School board Trustee was, and still is Back to the Basics.

“This includes the Constitution of the United States, which is the Law of the Land including the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution. They guarantee US citizens certain personal rights.”

The Place 5 Trustee went on to remind the Texas Constitution Bill of Rights includes the Freedom of Speech and Press too.

Story Is Surprised By The Community’s Reaction

“This flurry is curious to me in view of the fact that in our community and attending ROISD we have supporters of Sharia Law and face coverings,” Story said. “Superintendent Sanford, in the letter you posted, you state ROISD is proud of our diversity and we are unified in our thoughts and actions that we are all one. We take pride in knowing that our strength and love is found in our diversity.”

Story went on to address Board President Anderson, “You state my comment did not reflect the opinions, beliefs, or values of Red Oak ISD, and that any inappropriate, offensive, or demeaning comments or actions by any Red Oak ISD Board of Trustees member is unacceptable.

Mr. Anderson, because we have members of our community and students attending ROISD who support Sharia Law and face coverings, how is my simple, non-judgmental comment ‘Sharia Law face covering’ inappropriate, offensive, demeaning and unacceptable?”

When asked for a comment on Friday night’s meeting regarding Story’s comments the Red Oak Superintendent repeated her already-issued statement. “As I’ve said repeatedly, Red Oak ISD is proud of our diversity and we celebrate our differences. We take pride in the fact that our strength and love is embedded in our diversity.”

Story up for re-election in November

Clifford Wherley headshot
Clifford Wherley Photo Credit Wherley FB campaign page used with permission

With Trustee Story up for re-election in November, her opponent Clifford Wherley, said “I heard Ms. Story’s comments during the Red Oak ISD School Board meeting on July 27, 2020. My initial reaction to her comments was shock and disbelief. I could not understand how anyone could say or believe that making face mask mandatory is the same as Sharia law face coverings.”

Wherley said he was upset with his opponent’s comments. He wanted to give her a chance to clarify her statement.

“I listened as Ms. Story was given an opportunity to make a statement about her comments and it was very disappointing to hear. At no time did Ms. Story ever apologize for her insensitive comment, instead she talked about her having the right to free speech and how she did not say anything wrong.”

Wherley said he does agree with Story when it comes to free speech. However, he said he believes her comments were insensitive and based on nothing more than “perpetuated overgeneralizations and intolerance.” Wherley is also the Lancaster ISD Police Chief.

“Red Oak ISD and school districts across the country are facing many tough and challenging decisions on how to keep students and staff, safe and healthy,’ Wherley concluded. “Ms. Story needs to start thinking about the safety and well-being of the students and staff members of Red Oak ISD. She was elected to represent the entire Red Oak ISD community.”

Red Oak Community Responds

Based on Ms. Story’s “Penny Story for School Board” Facebook page, it’s clear she’s opposed to masks being required in school.

Chere Harden Blair commented on ROISD Facebook page with, “Just now watching last night’s meeting. I understand the board president’s explanation that the upcoming election is our only recourse, but the board is not powerless in this situation. Words are powerful, which is why so many of us are disturbed by Ms. Story’s initial comment. The board could have at least officially reprimanded her. Trustee Story’s rationalizing and even reaffirming her comments, followed by a direct question to the board asking why she was wrong were met with silence. Silence. No condemnation. No response. Nothing. I’m disappointed in our school board.

Please, please vote in Oct/Nov, everyone. There are 2 other candidates running for Penny Story’s place. One of them, Sean Kelly, has at least commented on this on his candidate page. I don’t know him, but I know that he was within a hundred votes or so of winning the seat last year, and there was a whole group of candidates last year who were more qualified than Trustee Story. Let’s put action to our outrage and vote.”