Religious schools should have the same access to scholarships and funds as other private schools, the justices ruled, in a victory for conservatives.   (01) view article arw

Texas ends this school year in an unprecedented situation with the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School district special education departments are in an especially difficult position because the requirement to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education continues, despite the effects of the pandemic. In this time of uncertainty, we recommend that school administrators work closely with their special education departments to support their efforts to provide services to students.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school shutdowns across the nation forcing districts to transition to remote learning to educate kids, there has been a complete upheaval in terms of how we deliver and collect information about our students. Teachers are reaching out virtually—through video and teleconferencing—at untraditional times of the day, to entire groups of students and their parents. To paraphrase the Secretary of Education, it is the “ingenuity, innovation and grit” of our educators that has given rise to new situations and new questions surrounding student privacy.

A former Temple ISD teacher was arrested for engaging in an improper relationship with a 17-year-old student. Former TISD teacher Jennifer Hoelscher, 35, was arrested Tuesday for engaging in an improper relationship with a 17-year-old Temple High School student. view article arw

Several Texas bar owners filed a $10 million federal lawsuit Tuesday afternoon against Gov. Greg Abbott, in an attempt to void his executive order shutting down bars for a second time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.  All of the plaintiffs are members of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance. This is the second lawsuit filed against Abbott this week after more than 30 Texas bars filed a lawsuit in Travis County over his recent shutdown order on Monday.  In addition to the damages, the lawsuit asks the court to stop Abbott from enforcing his executive order which closes bars and to prevent him from issuing similar orders in the future without proper notice.  view article arw

Five months after hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court finally announced its decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue yesterday morning, finding that states cannot exclude religious institutions from participating in programs that subsidize private school tuition. The case, with its narrow 5-4 margin and notable number of concurring opinions and dissents, began with a parent's state-level complaint about a tax-credit scholarship program but touches on deep constitutional arguments over whether public funding can be directed toward religious ends. view article arw

A special meeting of the Cuero ISD board of trustees was called on Tuesday, June 9. Following a short open meeting, the board went onto approve four items. The open meeting was a notice from the school board of a proposed contract for legal services with Pearson Legal, P.C. There was no deliberation from the public during the open meeting portion. view article arw

The Harlandale Independent School District board has hired new lawyers to advise it in day-to-day operations - the same firm that advised trustees during years they repeatedly awarded lucrative work to an engineering firm in a no-competition process that eventually drew the ire of the Texas Education Agency and almost resulted in a state takeover of the district. view article arw

Conservative firebrand Steven Hotze has launched another lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott’s coronavirus response, joined by current and former lawmakers and several hundred business owners who argue the state’s contact tracing program infringes on their privacy and ability to make a living.  The civil action filed Monday in federal court takes on the disparate operating capacities the governor mandated in his “COVID-19 lottery,” claiming Abbott’s actions have limited restaurants and bars with 25 or 50 percent limits, while bicycle shops, liquor stores, pool cleaners and supermarkets are running at full tilt. view article arw

A state district judge this week ruled that state Education Commissioner Mike Morath violated the law by writing a rule that allows charter chains to take over struggling public schools without first consulting with teachers and other campus personnel. read more arw

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Back when the pandemic first started, a lot of people were wondering how child custody arrangements would be impacted since everyone was supposed to be staying at home and spring break went for weeks. Now, child custody agreements could also be called into question after the Corpus Christi ISD announced that it's switching to a year-round school calendar for 2020-2021.  view article arw

Over an 8-month span, Wimberley ISD spent nearly $100,000 in their fight over the logo of Wimberley High School parents altered to include a Pride flag in the background, according to public records.  In a public records request CBS Austin submitted, the school district spent $99,428.74 in lawyers' fees between September 21,2019, and May 20, 2020. The altered logo debuted on September 21 during Wimberley's first ever LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, and the Wimberley ISD Board of Trustees held their grievance hearing with the ACLU and parent who filed the grievance on May 20. view article arw

A Gladewater High School senior whose mother said the school told her the student could not walk in the graduation without changing her hair color participated in Friday’s graduation — and Superintendent Sedric Clark said he is frustrated, because the issue was resolved Monday.  Kieana Hooper said her daughter, KJ, wears her hair in braids, and part of it is dyed red. She said the school’s principal, Cathy Bedair, called her Monday and said KJ cannot participate in graduation unless she takes down her braids and changes her hair color.  Clark said the issue was never the braids, but the color, which violates the student dress code.  A recording of the phone call Monday reveals Bedair said she is “not going to force the issue.”  Hooper then said if it would be an issue, then Bedair could call her lawyer. Bedair replied, “It’s not going to be an issue.”  Audio from phone call  But the district still received a letter from California-based attorney Waukeen McCoy, Clark said. view article arw

A federal appeals court blocked the expansion of vote-by-mail eligibility amid the novel coronavirus’ outbreak Thursday while the state’s appeal is considered.  A panel of judges on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based out of New Orleans granted Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to stay U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order that would have allowed eligible Texas voters, regardless of their age, to qualify for a mail-in ballot to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus amid the pandemic. view article arw

A decision about whether Frisco ISD’s at-large voting system prevents minority candidates from getting elected to the board of trustees is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant.  His ruling, which will draw on the evidence and testimony presented in federal court in Sherman last week, is expected at a later date.  The suit, filed in April 2019, called on FISD to alter its at-large system into single-member districts for board members. Under the current system, every board member represents the entire district rather than specified geographic areas of the district. view article arw

Four families are suing the Austin school district, alleging that it failed to respond to reports of sexual abuse of students.  The civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court said victims were sexually assaulted by either another student or a district staff member during their time in school.  The suit accuses the district of failing to refer the reports of abuse to the appropriate authorities, violating rules set in Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.  "In each case staff never referred the case to the School District's Title IX Coordinator once staff knew of the allegations even though federal jurisprudence and the District's own policies and procedures required such as referral," the court filing read.  The suit also says the district "never provided any student any counseling, psychological services or other remedies in a timely manner." view article arw

Although the court sided with state Attorney General Ken Paxton's interpretation of what constitutes a disability, it indicated that it is up to voters to assess their health and determine if they meet the state's definition, which could allow them to vote by mail.  The Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus does not qualify a voter to apply for a mail-in ballot. In the latest twist in the legal fight over voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, the court agreed with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the risk of contracting the virus alone does not meet the state’s qualifications for voting by mail.  “We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code,” the court wrote.   (28) view article arw

AUSTIN, Texas — A lawsuit has been filed against the Austin Independent School District over multiple alleged incidents of sexual assault on AISD campuses.  The lawsuit alleges that in each of the four cases outlined in the suit, AISD staff never referred the cases to the district's Title IX coordinator once they knew of the allegations, even though doing so is required by the district's policies and procedures. The suit also states that in each incident, AISD never conducted its own investigations of sexual harassment or assault and did not provide any of the victims with counseling or other resources in a timely manner.  view article arw

The federal trial over Frisco ISD’s at-large trustee election system begins Tuesday at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas courthouse in Sherman.  Masks will be allowed in the courtroom and some witnesses may testify over video, as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A Frisco parent filed suit last year, alleging the district’s system for electing its seven-member school board discriminates against the non-white population. view article arw

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)— The former City View ISD tax collector has been indicted in an alleged embezzlement scheme involving up to $340,000, taken over a period of several years. 64-year-old Judith Ann Heaston was arrested in February last year after the superintendent discovered what he called significant discrepancies involving large sums of money in the accounts of the city view tax office. view article arw

Some parents modified the district's logo for Wimberley's first annual LGBTQ Pride March in September 2019 to support their LGBTQ children. view article arw

A federal appeals court has temporarily put on hold a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.  Siding with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday blocked a preliminary injunction issued just a day before by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery. The move could prove to be a temporary win for the state. The appellate panel granted what's known as an administrative stay, which only stops Biery's ruling from taking effect while the court considers whether it will issue an injunction nullifying it during the entire appeals process. view article arw

A former principal of Metzger Middle School in the Judson Independent School District has sued in state district court over her 2016 firing, adding fresh arguments to an earlier lawsuit that she lost and is now appealing.  (paywalled) view article arw

With Texas’ runoff elections set to happen in the middle of a pandemic this summer, many voters are asking: Do I have to go to the polls to cast a ballot?  The short answer is that it’s still up in the air for many. An ongoing legal fight is being waged on multiple fronts over whether the novel coronavirus means more people should be eligible to vote by mail in Texas this year.  In the federal courts, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted a preliminary injunction that said anyone in Texas who wants to vote by mail to avoid transmission of the virus could qualify for a mail-in ballot. However, less than a day later, a panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stopped his ruling from taking effect. view article arw

As parents and Wimberley ISD have gotten lawyers involved in an 8-month battle over the altered logo of Wimberley High School, the school board and ACLU of Texas were finally able to get together Wednesday for a grievance hearing.  The ACLU filed the Level III Grievance on behalf of a parent of a LGBTQ student in the district, in an effort to get the district to retract a letter threatening legal action if images of the altered logo were not taken off social media and print.  After three hours of deliberations, the school board unanimously declined to retract the letter and take the remedies the ACLU asked of them.  This fight centers around the Wimberley High School Texan logo parents altered by putting a LGBTQ Pride flag in the backdrop for the city's first ever Pride parade in September. view article arw

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post about a class-action lawsuit filed against the College Board:  A class-action lawsuit has been filed in federal court on behalf of students who took online Advanced Placement tests last week and ran into technical trouble submitting their answers. It demands that the College Board score their answers instead of requiring them to retake the test in June, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in monetary relief.  The lawsuit, dated Tuesday, says that students’ inability to submit answers was the fault of the exam creators, and it charges that the College Board engaged in a number of “illegal activities,” including breach of contract, gross negligence, misrepresentation and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It also seeks more than $500 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. view article arw

The Bloomington Independent School District, under investigation for possible misuse of more than $500,000 in federal funds. The federal funds were supposed to help teach low-income families in the Bloomington ISD. We spoke with the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office about the investigation. “We have created an offense and began an investigation into the potential misappropriation of funds. Currently one of our investigators are working on that, however, these cases do seem to take quite a bit of time because the audit of financial crimes is a very complex and time-consuming effort,” said Roy Boyd, Victoria County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy. read more arw

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced his next wave of reopenings designed to restart the Texas economy during the coronavirus pandemic, saying child care facilities can reopen immediately, bars can open Friday with limited capacity and sporting events can return without fans at the end of the month.  Abbott also said he would permit restaurants to operate at 50% capacity starting Friday, up from 25% that’s allowed now.  At the same time, Abbott exempted two hotspots — Amarillo and El Paso — from his latest decisions, saying they would need to wait a week.   (19) view article arw

The state’s highest court granted Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion to temporarily deny mail ballots to people who fear catching the virus.AUSTIN — The Texas Supreme Court late Friday overruled an appeals court’s order that had allowed election officials across the state to temporarily give mail ballots to people who are afraid of being infected with the coronavirus.  Attorney General Ken Paxton said the court accepted his argument that mail ballots should not be granted to voters who fear catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He said the Supreme Court’s order stops the distribution of mail ballots under those conditions until his appeal is heard. view article arw

Conroe Mayor Toby Powell has filed a class action lawsuit against several Montgomery County officials hoping to get some property tax relief for residents facing economic hardships amid the amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit names Montgomery County Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski and Tax Assessor Collector Tammy McRae and was filed just hours before the deadline to protest property taxes. It asks the court to order the chief appraiser to either apply an across-the-board reduction to the value of all properties or re-assess each property individually. view article arw

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Education Department on Thursday, saying that the recent rule changes to Title IX by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "sharply limit educational institutions’ obligations to respond to reports of sexual harassment and assault." “Betsy DeVos has created a double standard that is devastating for survivors of sexual harassment and assault, who are overwhelmingly women and girls. We are suing to make sure this double standard never takes effect," Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement. view article arw

A former Pharr-San Juan-Alamo high school teacher is out on bond. He’s facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a student. Officials say 31-year-old Eric Javier Garza was arrested by the Mission Police Department and charged with improper relationship between educator and student, a second-degree felony. Garza taught at PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School in Pharr, where the student was enrolled. view article arw

The Jasper Independent School District Board of Trustees has voted to approve the hiring of two law firms to replace the outgoing attorney, Tanner Hunt, who has recently retired.  According to Superintendent John Seybold, the district has hired the firms of Sara Leon & Associates, LLC, with offices in Houston, Austin, and Corpus Christi, and also the Haglund Law Firm, P.C., located in Lufkin.  Tanner Hunt, a longtime Beaumont lawyer, had served as the school district’s attorney for many years. view article arw

Former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge and CEO of the Fairly Group Alex Fairly have filed a lawsuit against the Amarillo Independent School District claiming the district violated the Texas Education Code when selecting medical benefits providers. view article arw

To Rhea Shahane, a first-year law student at the University of Texas, and Isabella Fanucci, a graduating senior at UT, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ new Title IX ruling, issued Wednesday, felt like a slap in the face.  DeVos’ changes to Title IX, a 1972 law barring discrimination based on sex within education, has changed the way colleges are required to investigate sexual misconduct while bolstering the rights of those accused. view article arw