In just one week Superintendents and School Boards will hold their collective breath in anticipation of the results of their bond elections. Will it be the result they dreaded? Or will the measure fail? That’s just a joke. Yes, of course, Superintendents and School Boards prefer the win to the loss, but if there were any game where the prize was the chance to make a 70 million dollar high school fit in a fifty million dollar budget and double your workload it would probably be named “What did I do?”

Should a district form a police department? As with all things legal, the answer is “it depends.” Some districts are located in an area where local law enforcement is 15 to 20 minutes away or longer. For an active shooter, that’s a long time to wait before help comes. Other districts may have contracted with the local police or sheriff’s department, but because of more demand for their services the schools don’t believe that they are getting enough protections from the officers. So for whatever reason, if your district would like to start a police department, this article will outline the various steps involved.Should a district form a police department?

Teachers and other public school staff are turning to a variety of companies and non-profits to help fund classroom projects or resources through social media “crowdfunding.”  Crowdfunding, or the practice of raising money by asking individuals or groups to support a project or cause because federal, state or local monies are lacking has no shortage of websites and services happy to help with this (almost always) noble cause.  Concerns arise, however, over how monies raised or other assets given to your district will be accounted for, as well as the ways in which staff utilize the crowdfunding tools generally.

Providing special education services becomes increasing complex every year. There is simply no way that educators can remember every single law or rule in every single ARD meeting, especially considering the wide variety of students that are served under the special education umbrella of service. This is why there is a healthy business in providing software to school districts to help meet these requirements. These software products both document your decisions in ARD meetings and help a district stay in compliance with special education requirements. Failure to keep appropriate records can be costly to a district should a parent file a TEA complaint or due process hearing, and maintaining legal compliance is a requirement under both state and federal law. Purchasing a software system that meets your district’s needs can be invaluable to help a district stay in compliance.

If you were to ask Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Mark Zuckerberg’s Jarvis (aka Morgan Freeman) what legal issues often arise with the use of personal work phones, they would hopefully answer, “Public information requests, records retention, and security concerns.” If by chance 2017 technology has yet to discover the rugged frontier of education law, read on for a short synopsis of the common pitfalls of personal work phones.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recently amended the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 11431, to address the educational effects of homelessness. ESSA alters the definition of homeless, commissions new methods of identifying homeless students, attempts to keep students in their original school district as long as possible, and creates many additional notice, privacy, and referral obligations for districts. As before, McKinney-Vento services are provided through the state’s local education agencies (called LEAs in the law, but Texas calls them “districts’ or “charters”) and coordinated by the locally appointed liaison.

Do you know whether you are a reimbursing employer for purposes of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA)? It pays to know the difference in light of some changes in the law enacted during the last session.

Under Senate Bill (SB) 507, which was codified as § 29.022 of the Texas Education Code, upon the request of a parent, trustee, or staff member, a district must install one or more video cameras in each self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which a majority of the students in regular attendance are: (1) provided special education and related services; and (2) assigned to a self-contained classroom or other special education setting for at least 50 percent of the instructional day.

Does your district have a Facebook page? A Twitter feed? How about an Instagram or other social media account? How about your sports teams? Your individual campuses? Chances are that your district has at least some official social media presence, even if it’s not actively managed or maintained – and chances are that you’re forgetting something important when it comes to each and every official post made by your district. So I have just one more question (and I promise that this isn’t a joke): are you maintaining records of those social media posts in accordance with the state’s record retention schedules?

I recognize that I am sticking my foot in a hornet’s nest by daring to write an article about this subject. Sides have been taken, and both sides are polarized and ready for a legal battle. This article is an attempt at an objective look at the legal issues.

Most Texas school district administrators are familiar and comfortable with their district policies concerning grievances filed by employees, and students or their parents.  District policies DGBA, related to grievances filed by employees, and FNG, concerning grievances filed by students or their parents, require administrators to conduct what is commonly referred to as a “Stop, Look, and Listen.”  In these processes, the administrator will typically review the written grievance filed by the employee, student or parent, meet in person with the grievant, and make a determination as to whether the requested relief can be granted.  Often these matters are resolved without a comprehensive investigation.  Trouble can arise, however, when administrators mistake or confuse the limited requirements of a “Stop, Looks and Listen” under polices DGBA or FNG with the more rigorous requirements of investigating claims of harassment or discrimination under district policies DIA or FFH.  Below are five tips for successfully handling complaints of harassment or discrimination that can help administrators remain in compliance with district policy and federal law, and limit potential liability for both the school district and the administrator in his or her personal capacity.

Texas Senate Bill 507, codified as Texas Education Code section 29.022, was enacted to promote student safety by requiring schools to install video cameras in certain special education classrooms.  School districts and open enrollment charter schools should begin developing their policies and procedures now in order to be ready to roll the cameras by the start of the 2016-17 school year.