Claycomb Associates, Architects

It has become common place to hear and read about requests for therapy dogs and horses in the classroom, emotional support peacocks and other animals on airplanes, and comfort critters in restaurants. This can lead to confusion concerning what type of accommodations a school district must make for students with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), or what types of animals must be allowed on campus to support a student pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The information below is intended as a general guideline to help answer some of the most common questions concerning animals on campus and help district personnel prevent setting a precedent by approving overly broad requests while also avoiding liability for denying requests that may be appropriate under the state and federal law. Districts should however contact their general or special education counsel with questions concerning specific scenarios or making exceptions for unique individual circumstances.

Sweeny ISD argues former employee Lisa Marie Smith’s lawsuit should be dismissed because her firing was justified, while Smith’s lawyer contends it was wrongful and she was never notified she was fired, court documents show. Both parties are set to appear in court in November. Discovery is complete in the case, said Smith’s attorney, Karla Evans Epperson. The docket call scheduled for Nov. 9 means “the matter might be called for trial during the two-month period following the docket call,” Epperson said in an email. view article arw

NEW ORLEANS – After arguing its case in a federal appeals court Wednesday, Texas will soon know whether its decision to spend $33.3 million less on students with disabilities in 2012 will cost it millions in future federal funding.  The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to withhold that same amount from Texas in special education grants, saying a 1997 statute prohibits states from reducing their funding for kids with disabilities from year to year. Texas appealed that determination to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the federal statute is vague and the penalty should not be enforced. view article arw

On Oct. 4, the 14th Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a $9.6 million judgment for a school district that claimed its insurance company breached its contract amid restoration after Hurricane Ike and denied the parties' motions for rehearing. The Appeals Court ultimately determined the Dickinson Independent School District (DISD) wasn’t owed the judgment over allegations of breach of contract damages amid its lawsuit against Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). view article arw

 A Virginia school district superintendent has apologized to a transgender middle schooler who was barred from using the boys' or girls' locker rooms during an active shooter drill. The Free-Lance Star reports Stafford Public Schools superintendent Scott Kizner also reiterated that apology at a school board meeting earlier this week after the incident sparked a national outcry. A large group of supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community attended the meeting with concerns about the school system's policies on transgender students. view article arw

Sixty-four years after the landmark Brown v. Board decision, integration has regained its status as one of the most urgent objectives in education today. In the wake of a large-scale resegregation of public schools since the 1990s, a number of journalists, policy analysts, and policymakers are pushing to introduce greater diversity in public schools. view article arw

Waco’s U.S. district judge and attorneys for both sides, on Wednesday discussed a pending lawsuit naming the Moody Independent School District over an injured football player. Attorneys for Moody High School senior Steven Davis filed the original complaint last April in which Davis claims he was severely and permanently injured during an unsanctioned football drill on Feb. 16, 2016 that had to be halted 15 minutes after it began because all of the players were hurt. view article arw

Pasadena ISD police are investigating a report of misconduct by a substitute teacher that involved a student at Jessup Elementary School, a spokesman for the school district said. The investigation began after "a report of inappropriate conduct" was reported by a student to the school principal around 4 p.m. on Friday. The school district is working to interview all the children in the classroom, said Art Del Barrio, the district spokesman. view article arw

Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District officials ignored and covered up a 4-year old student's 2016 sexual assault, failing to notify parents of the incident, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the school district. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 2, contends that on Dec. 14, 2016, a 4-year old girl at Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School in Baytown was sexually assaulted by a 4-year old boy in a unisex bathroom. view article arw

Santa Fe ISD, the same district that suffered a tragic high school shooting in May, has now been hit with a multi-million dollar lawsuit over a head injury suffered by a minor in a football drill. Seeking in excess of $5 million in damages, Donna and Troy Yarbrough filed suit on behalf of their minor son against Santa Fe ISD and numerous school officials, including several individuals on the football coaching staff. “This is a critically important civil rights case concerning traumatic physical and mental injuries sustained by a male high school student,” the suit states. view article arw

CARTHAGE, TX (KLTV) - Mediation efforts have failed in a federal lawsuit involving Carthage Independent School District and the case is moving forward, according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Marshall. The mother of a student filed the lawsuit in April, alleging school district officials failed to discipline a football player accused of secretly recording her daughter in the nude at an off-campus residence two years ago. The lawsuit cites two Title IX violations and three violations of the Fourteenth Amendment for procedural due process. view article arw

Although African American and Hispanic students make up only slightly more than half the student population at Fort Bend ISD schools, together they accounted for over 86 percent of all the out-of-school suspensions and more than 92 percent of student transfers to alternative programs associated with more serious discipline incidents last year, district reports indicate. view article arw

The headaches came steadily, every day for three months. Two years after he cracked helmets with a fellow player during a routine scrimmage, the 17-year-old former lineman still gets migraines, some so intense he can’t function without sunglasses indoors. His doctors still haven’t cleared him for golf, let alone football. He’s abandoned hope of playing college ball. To Donna and Troy Yarbrough, their son will never be the same. view article arw

A former Mesquite ISD substitute teacher alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that she was fired for reporting discrimination and racist behavior. A district spokeswoman said the office received paperwork about the lawsuit Wednesday morning, and had not yet assigned an attorney to the case as of Thursday. Sonya Edwards, who is black, had worked in the district for more than 10 years before a Mesquite High School secretary began making racist comments in February 2017, according to the lawsuit. view article arw

Investigators say a 22-year-old man who was training to be a school district police officer raped a 12-year-old girl multiple times and filmed it on his cellphone. Jorge Bastida appeared in court Thursday morning. He's charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. view article arw

The Texas Supreme Court's decision to uphold a ruling that said Kountze ISD cheerleader signs were private speech left "all Texas school districts in the position of being damned if they do and damned if they don't," the district's attorney said in a Tuesday motion requesting that the court rehear the case. Brandt asked the state's highest court to "correct the court of appeals' erroneous decision." "By ruling that the messages on run-through banners which the cheerleaders held up at football games in Kountze ISD constitute private speech of the individual cheerleaders, the court of appeals has guaranteed that school districts have no safe path between the Scylla of First Amendment litigation and the Charybdis of litigation under the Texas Constitution," attorney Thomas Brandt wrote in the court filing. view article arw

Two former Atlanta Public Schools’ educators are expected to be the first to go to prison for a massive cheating scandal after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of their 2015 convictions. The Supreme Court decided Monday to not review the case against Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson, among the 11 former teachers and administrators found guilty of racketeering more than three years ago.   view article arw

A mother is suing a northeast Missouri high school for discrimination after her son didn't make the varsity soccer team and was kicked off the junior varsity team last month. KTVI reports that the mother is identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit against Ladue Horton Watkins High School. view article arw

A mother offers to buy her son's textbooks and pay for a tutor, promising not to reduce her financial support for his education. The next year, textbook prices unexpectedly plummet and the tutor offers a major discount — meaning mom ends up spending less. Could anyone rightly accuse her of breaking her promise to her son? Of course not, argued attorneys for the state of Texas, providing a colorful analogy in a recent legal brief to explain why the state provided $33.3 million less in 2011-12 to educate kids with disabilities than it had the previous year. view article arw

Former Houston ISD chief auditor Richard Patton will receive about $205,000 and his lawyers will get about $145,000 under terms of a settlement tied to his retaliation lawsuit against the school district, according to a copy of the agreement.  The settlement, approved on Sept. 13 by HISD trustees, follows two years of litigation initiated by Patton, who alleged that district trustees illegally retaliated against him by not renewing his contract in 2016.  view article arw

Matt Powell, Lubbock County’s Criminal District Attorney for 13 years, will be taking on the role of Midland ISD’s general counsel in November. Powell will start his new job on Nov. 5 - a day before Lubbock County Voters will decide on his replacement, with the long-time DA opting against seeking a fourth full term. His first assistant district attorney, Sunshine Stanek, is running unopposed as a Republican in the general election for District Attorney in the Nov. 6 mid-term election. Powell started working as a prosecutor in 1993.  view article arw

The moment a person begins to dream in a second language is often heralded as the moment he or she becomes fluent, when the brain stops translating a thought into a new idiom and instead pulls up a concept and expresses it in either tongue. Because language and dreams both connect the dreamer to culture, research suggests it’s also the point at which a person becomes comfortable straddling two worlds. view article arw

A teacher was removed from Somerville High School on Thursday after allegations were brought forward of an improper relationship with a student. "Upon learning of the allegation, the district immediately reported it to the appropriate law enforcement entities," said SISD Interim Superintendent Karla Sparks. At the time of this post, the teacher has not been arrested. view article arw

The morning of Oct. 2, 2017 was not the first time that India Landry, a senior at Windfern High School outside Houston, refused to stand when the Pledge of Allegiance came on over the intercom. The protest had gotten her kicked out of her English class five times; her law teacher told her she was disrespectful, according to a 2017 lawsuit. But on that October morning, when the then-17-year-old refused to stand, she was expelled. view article arw

Last October, then-17-year-old India Landry was in the principal’s office of her Texas high school when the school intercom crackled. It was time for the Pledge of Allegiance.  Her classmates stood nearly in unison all over Windfern High School, outside Houston. But Landry stayed seated and did not recite it. Principal Martha Strother, according to court filings, immediately took action. “Well, you’re kicked outta here,” she told Landry.  The school secretary keyed on the symbolism of the act by Landry, who is black. view article arw

The state of Texas is taking a very public stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in a case involving a Katy student expelled after she sat during the daily ritual at her school.  The notice of intervention by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton comes on the brink of midterm elections amid heightened tensions over patriotism and civil rights.  “School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge,” Paxton said in a news release. “The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.” view article arw

In a letter today to the superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office cautioned the school district against changing its facilities use policy to ban churches with traditional Christian beliefs from renting its facilities after school and on weekends. Current Austin ISD policy expressly permits churches to rent school facilities on the same terms as all community organizations. However, several members of the Austin ISD’s Board of Trustees are on record saying they’re against renting the Performing Arts Center to Georgetown-based Celebration Church because of it holds the traditional religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. view article arw

Midland ISD names new general counsel

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Midland ISD leaders have picked their new general counsel. The district reported Monday that former Lubbock County criminal district attorney Matthew Powell will join the district on Nov. 5. Powell will be responsible for providing direct legal counsel and representation for the Board of Trustees, Superintendent, and administrative staff. view article arw

The Midland ISD School Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Matthew Powell will join the district's leadership team as General Counsel on November 5. Powell will be responsible for providing direct legal counsel and representation for the Board of Trustees, Superintendent, and administrative staff. view article arw

A juvenile will be charged with a terroristic threat count charge after he allegedly made threats towards a Columbus ISD student, police say. On Monday, Columbus ISD cancelled classes at all five of its campuses after the district became aware of a threat on social media, school officials say. A message posted on the district's website says that the administration received word about the threat just before midnight. view article arw

An allegation of sexual harassment has led to the resignation of one of Dallas ISD’s top administrators. DISD Deputy Superintendent Israel Cordero — the district’s second-in-command — resigned Thursday, a day after being placed on administrative leave by superintendent Michael Hinojosa. view article arw

The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Friday warned the Austin Independent School District not to make a policy change that could prevent a local church from renting a school facility for Sunday sermons. Under a short-term rental agreement, the district has been renting out its Performing Arts Center in East Austin to the Georgetown-based Celebration Church since Aug. 26. Last month, protesters gathered outside the venue waving pride flags and calling on Austin ISD not to rent to a church that opposes gay marriage. view article arw

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office on Friday warned Austin school district officials against blocking a Christian church that opposes gay marriage from using district facilities, saying such action would violate state law and the First Amendment.  Celebration Church of Georgetown has been holding services most Sundays since Aug. 26 at the Austin district’s Performing Arts Center under a short-term rental agreement, prompting protests from gay rights and civil rights advocates. view article arw

Ruben Esquivel, 33, has been arrested after Edgewood ISD police say that he threatened to kill employees at a school on Tuesday. According to an arrest affidavit, Esquivel was at Gardendale Elementary on the west-side when he began yelling and screaming at an employee, who was so scared for her safety that she didn’t want to pick up the phone and call police because she was afraid that the suspect would escalate his violent threats. view article arw

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A week after resigning, the former superintendent of one of Dallas’ largest and oldest charter schools returned to defend her name as well as her use of school funds.  During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s A.W. Brown Leadership Academies school board meeting, Laura Mimms spoke publicly for the first time since her resignation. view article arw