Is David Bradley the SBOE’s Big Bad Bully?

This year the far-right faction that controls the Texas State Board of Education has been even more contemptuous of teachers and the law than in the past. Now it appears that in addition to bullying teachers, David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, may have a history of threatening at least one fellow board member.

Some of the board’s right-wingers — especially Bradley — have bullied teachers who dare come before them with suggestions and concerns about what our public schools should be teaching Texas children. This week the Examiner, a Southeast Texas newspaper, revealed that Cynthia Thornton, a former board member — and a fellow Republican — claims Bradley bullied and threatened her when she served on the board. As a result, Thornton says, the Texas Education Agency had to post armed security at board meetings.

“To make a long story short, every year it got worse and worse between Bradley and I, and everybody in Austin was watching the show. And I decided I’m not going to put up with this stuff and I flat told him off. The first time he grabbed me was when I made it plain that what he had said was a bunch of stupidness about (Carole Keeton) Strayhorn when she was controller and it was a downright lie, because I showed him the letter that we had all received and he said he didn’t.”

Thornton said her physical encounter with Bradley was sudden and unpleasant.

“As I went to the restroom and walked around his chair, he actually grabbed me and told me to keep my G.D. mouth shut,” she exclaimed. “Well, I was so shocked — I should have turned around and slapped him and knocked him out of his chair and let him fall down on the floor right beneath the table the press had. This was during a meeting! I just kept going. I just ignored it, shook my arm loose and kept going.”

Thornton says she had another particularly unpleasant encounter with Bradley a year later. After she made an indirect but public reference to Bradley having been indicted in 2002 for possibly violating the Texas law on open meetings, she says, Bradley confronted her in the state board’s break room during a meeting.

As she was getting some ice, Bradley said, “You better get yourself a good lawyer, because I don’t like you lying about me being a felon. You better watch what you say, because I’ve got a good lawyer and you better get you a good one.”

Thornton says that encounter was the last straw. She says her husband asked then-Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley to tell Bradley to back off. He also asked that TEA begin posting armed security at state board meetings, which TEA did.

Bradley tells the Examiner that Thornton has blown the incidents “completely out of proportion.” Well, who knows. But what would Thornton, who left the board at the end of 2006, have to gain by doing so? Thornton is hardly a liberal — she was elected as a conservative Republican and voted that way on the board.

On the other hand, Bradley is a religious extremist who has worked to censor school textbooks on issues ranging from sex education to evolution. And if Thornton’s recounting of events is accurate, it appears that Bradley might have some serious anger management issues when folks don’t do what he wants.

You can read the whole piece from the Examiner here.