Preventive Law: Back To Basics

June 0308:35 AM

As this unprecedented school year draws to a close, it is important not to forget the basics as we sift through new state and federal legislation, funding paradigms, agency policy changes, and the continued effects of a pandemic on the wane in Texas. Many of the client calls and emails received this spring have been from administrators, over-extended and exhausted after navigating a flurry of new regulations and being tossed about in wave after wave of “guidance” for schools. These calls and emails have been about issues such as:

MISSION, Texas (KVEO) — Two current and former Sharyland Independent School District (ISD) board of trustees members have filed a lawsuit against a former student that they say defamed them on social media. The lawsuit claims that Dante Flores-Demarchi and two more unnamed individuals used “deliberately false statements to defame” Sharyland ISD board member Jose “Pepe” Garcia and former board member Melissa Smith on social media posts. view article arw

A Dallas ISD employee has been charged with three counts of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony Mesquite Police said Tuesday, June 15. The Mesquite Police Department said officers arrested John Lentz 63, on Monday. view article arw

A former girls basketball coach and history teacher at Katy Independent School District admitted in federal court Friday in Houston that he’d amassed a collection of child pornography on his personal devices. Wearing a suit and tie before U.S. District Judge David Hittner, Bradley Britton, 35, pleaded guilty to receiving and possessing child pornography between July 1, 2018, and May 23, 2019. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 6. view article arw

The FBI served the La Joya Independent School District, the city of Mission and the Agua Special Utility District with grand jury subpoenas last month — requesting documents on more than a dozen public officials or corporations affiliated with them. Agua SUD released the subpoena under the Texas Public Information Act. The Progress Times obtained information about the La Joya ISD and Mission subpoenas from other sources. view article arw

An attempt to settle a grievance by a former football coach in DeSoto drove a wedge between the school board and the state official charged with monitoring its work. Today, trustees will reconsider a roughly $24,000 payment. The stumble over the deal illuminates how DeSoto ISD is still trying to right itself after years of tumult and financial mismanagement. view article arw

The FBI served the La Joya Independent School District, the city of Mission and the Agua Special Utility District with grand jury subpoenas last month — requesting documents on more than a dozen public officials or corporations affiliated with them. Agua SUD released the subpoena under the Texas Public Information Act. view article arw

Beginning Thursday, all Austin ISD principals and senior leadership will undergo extensive sexual assault, harassment and discrimination training, courtesy of the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC). The TLSC reports this action is a direct result of the district reaching an agreement with one of their clients, Julia Heilrayne, a student who was sexually assaulted by one of her peers at Austin High School several years ago. view article arw

Daniel Wayne Bennett, who served as vice president of Paint Rock ISD, was sentenced to prison Monday, May 3, 2021, after a jury found him guilty of child sexual abuse. Bennett was indicted in January 2018 on three charges regarding crimes against a child: one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14 and two counts of sexual assault of a child. view article arw

BALLINGER — Volleyball has been a hot topic in Ballinger for the last couple of years. Recently, many parents have been determined to see the school district create a volleyball program. The issue is complex. Not only is the money involved substantial, but there is the issue of the level at which the program will start. At the January 2020 school board meeting, Ballinger ISD Athletic Director and head football coach Chuck Lipsey addressed the prospect of adding volleyball, but not at the varsity level immediately, “We should play 2 to 3 years on a sub-varsity level. We don’t want to throw the kids into a varsity schedule. If we do, we’ll have kids quit because the team will always be getting beat.” view article arw

The former principal at Robinson High School and his wife allege in a lawsuit that they were forced out of their jobs in 2019 because of “bigotry, racism and discrimination.” Lamar Collins and his wife, Rose Collins, a former substitute teacher, are seeking from $250,000 to $1 million in damages in their lawsuit against the Robinson Independent School District. view article arw

PALESTINE, Texas (KETK) — A court hearing is set for 9 a.m. June 25 for a judge to consider a motion to have charges against Kimberlyn Snider, the Neches Elementary School principal, thrown out.  During a pretrial hearing Friday, Snider’s attorney filed a motion to have charges against her quashed, records show. 87th Judicial District Court Deborah Oakes Evans will hear the attorney’s arguments on why the indictments against Snider should be thrown out.  Snider is charged with the felony crime of tampering/fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair and five counts of the misdemeanor crime official oppression.  view article arw

An El Paso Independent School District teacher was arrested for allegedly being in possession of THC. The teacher worked at Terrance Hills Middle School. view article arw

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Going to school at home over the internet during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic didn't work out well for lots of Corpus Christi Independent School District students. The proof is in the grade level failure rate more than doubling from around 1,800 students during a normal school year to around 4,000 during the 2020-2021 school year. view article arw

A former Brownsville ISD school board trustee was sentenced Wednesday to more than six years in prison. Sylvia Atkinson was convicted in November for her role in a bribery scheme. Even though she is scheduled to report to the U.S. Marshal's office in June - her attorney says the fight's not over. view article arw

The sentencing of former BISD board of trustee Sylvia P. Atkinson will take Wednesday morning, according to federal records. Atkinson is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez at 8:30 a.m. Super ‘flower’ moon and lunar eclipse Wednesday morning Atkinson’s sentencing was originally scheduled for Feb. 9 but was rescheduled several times. In November, 2020 a federal jury found Atkinson guilty on eight counts of bribery. view article arw

A Crosby woman has been arrested in connection to allegations she stole money from the Friendswood Mustang Athletic Booster Club, police announced Wednesday. Shona Nicole “Nikki” Guerra, 44, was arrested Wednesday in Spring in connection to a theft investigation, police said. A Galveston County grand jury had indicted her on May 13 on one count of theft between $150,000 and $300,000. She will be held on $200,000 bond, police said. Police had been investigating allegations Guerra, in her role as the booster club’s president, had stolen money since January, officials said. Guerra lived in Friendswood before moving to Crosby. view article arw

KEMP–Following a March restraining order against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Kemp Independent School District (KISD) was granted a temporary injunction during a hearing May 13. The district has been under investigation by TEA for allegations of racist remarks, bribery, contract procurement and retaliation according to a preliminary report released in late 2020. The injunction prohibits the Commissioner of Education Mike Morath from holding a review or appointing a hearing officer to conduct a review of the Special Accreditation Investigation (SAI). Further, the injunction prohibits interfering with KISD’s ability to investigate the bias of the TEA’s employees and finally it inhibits KISD from having full access to all investigation records. KISD’s attorney, Stephen Dubner, told The Monitor May 17, that during the hearing, Judge Dustin Howell had issues with TEA’s rules and that they needed to be addressed.    (20) view article arw

A man who allegedly tortured four cats to death over a five-month period is a former Fort Bend ISD teacher. Graham Reid, 29, from Sugar Land was arrested April 28 and charged with four counts of felony cruelty to non-livestock animals after allegedly beating and torturing his four cats to death on separate occasions. He posted bond the same day. view article arw

Lorena police have identified 36-year-old Nicholas Scot Crenshaw as the substitute teacher they arrested following an investigation into an indecency case involving a four-year-old child. Crenshaw was booked into the jail Friday and posted $75,000 bond and was released shortly after midnight Saturday morning. view article arw

The TEA’s investigation into allegations of a toxic climate and school board dysfunction at Kemp ISD appears stalled until at least December.  The state’s probe into allegations of racist remarks, bribery and threats of violence in Kemp schools remains stuck in court after a hearing Thursday prolonged the matter. State District Judge Dustin Howell in Travis County told attorneys for Kemp ISD and the Texas Education Agency that he would grant an injunction against the investigation progressing to a review of the state’s findings. FEATURED ON DALLAS NEWSTracker dslogo Elise Stefanik of New York beats Texas’ Chip Roy for House GOP conference chair ADVERTISING The injunction also will prohibit the TEA from imposing any sanctions — including a state takeover that would remove the Kaufman County district’s elected board of trustees from office. The next court date is set for December, but TEA attorneys are expected to appeal Howell’s decision, which could punt the issue to an appellate court. view article arw

AUSTIN – On April 16, the Biden Administration unlawfully stripped away Texas’s 1115 Medicaid waiver extension, which would have ensured stable funding for providers of healthcare for children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. To secure the assistance that countless Texans rely on, Attorney General Ken Paxton fired back with a lawsuit to reinstate the extension of the Medicaid waiver and prevent the federal government from forcing the adoption of its own unsuitable program.  read more arw

A temporary restraining order prevents the Texas Education Agency from completing investigation.  An investigation into allegations of bribery, threats of violence and racist remarks in Kemp schools is stalled in court as the district tries to fend off a potential state takeover.  Judge Jan Soifer granted the school district a temporary restraining order in March that halted the Texas Education Agency’s investigation into the small 1,600-student school district located 45 miles southeast of Dallas. A hearing on the order is scheduled for Thursday.  Late last year, TEA officials signed off on a preliminary report that described a toxic climate and dysfunctional board that “misused its position to assert control and power, creating chaos and conflict” that hindered Kemp.    (11) view article arw

A Stanton school district employee is under investigation by law enforcement. Stanton ISD Superintendent Dr. Merl Brandon issued the following statement on Monday: “On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the Stanton ISD Administration received information that a Stanton ISD employee allegedly engaged in conduct that may have violated one or more District policies. Pursuant to the District’s customary personnel practices, the District immediately placed the employee on Administrative Leave and initiated an internal investigation into the allegations. The District is in close contact with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as well as local law enforcement and will continue to cooperate with these state and local authorities. view article arw

A judge has dismissed a Texas State Teachers Association lawsuit against Longview ISD over its expansion of Senate Bill 1882 charter schools. The order was filed Thursday in Gregg County. Association spokesman Clay Robison said in a statement that the group is reviewing its legal options. A Longview ISD spokesman said in a statement that the district is pleased that the judge “correctly applied the law and found the plaintiffs were not entitled to second-guess the board’s decisions.” view article arw

A near two-month investigation, spurred by the alleged abuse of Kirbyville high school athletes, ended Wednesday with no criminal charges filed by police on behalf of the parents of the victims. The announcement by the Kirbyville Police Department provided few details as to why no criminal charges were filed but released the following statement: view article arw

A Baylor School of Law professor visited the Killeen Independent School District school board last week to provide an update on the district’s newly founded Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s plans for the future. KISD Superintendent John Craft told the board at its April 27 meeting that he is particularly excited about the committee’s work. “We will continue to become even more diverse as we grow, but there is always room for improvement,” Craft said. The new committee was created in September of 2020. In December, the board approved the committee’s request to bring on Baylor School of Law professor Connie Nichols to provide diversity and inclusion training. Last month, the committee began training with Nichols. view article arw

The Arlington NAACP, a contingent of Arlington Lamar High School Alumni, and former football players will hold a news conference Monday afternoon challenge the Arlington Independent School District's 'Good Ol' Boy' system of recruiting, selecting, and hiring of educators and coaches, the Arlington NAACP said. The Arlington NAACP said the process to fill the head football coaching position for the Lamar High School program shone a spotlight on an issue that has been present for the past decade. view article arw

Several Huntington residents filed a lawsuit against Huntington ISD on Wednesday for its mask mandate.  Rodney and Brandi Durham, Ginger Fann, CJ and Felicia Dooley, Ashley and John Daniels, Julie McGinty, Amanda Jade Edwards and Kimberly Stegall argue Huntington ISD Superintendent David Flowers “forgot the lessons” of Brown V. Board of Education by maintaining the district’s mask mandate.    (04) view article arw

Some employees in Austin ISD's special education department received letters this week saying their jobs were being eliminated as part of a reorganization. Elizabeth Casas, AISD's chief academic officer, said Friday she needed to take drastic measures because a "toxic work environment" had caused a backlog of special education evaluations. She said 900 students are still awaiting them. “I heard loud and clearly from our community and our parents," she said. "They are not happy with the services the SPED department has given over the years.” The district would not give the exact number of employees affected. There have been three executive directors in six years and a lot of turnover in the department, Casas said. “So we’re just going to wipe a clean slate and start over,” she said. view article arw

Now that at least 100 days have passed since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, it is a good time to examine some of the actions his administration has taken that have an impact on public schools. Of course, the executive agency with the most direct impact on schools is the United States Department of Education (DOE), so we will start there and then pay a visit to the Department of Labor, whose actions have an impact on the employment relationships in schools.

The former New Caney Independent School District superintendent was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday for public corruption. Kenn Franklin pleaded guilty to theft by a public servant. Franklin served as the New Caney ISD superintendent for 12 years before resigning on Nov. 16, 2020, while pending criminal investigation. view article arw

Kenn Franklin, New Caney ISD's former superintendent, pleaded guilty April 28 to a charge of aggregate theft by a public servant and was sentenced to two years in prison. Franklin resigned in mid-November after serving for 11 years as the district's superintendent. A three-month investigation by the Texas Rangers found that Franklin claimed reimbursement from the district for 31 trips between November 2019 and October 2020 that were inconsistent with phone and toll records, according to arrest warrant affidavits from the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. Texas Ranger Derek Leitner concluded there was “well over $2,500 that was reimbursed to Franklin based upon fictitious expense sheets," Community Impact Newspaper reported. view article arw

The Longview ISD Board of Trustees voted to continue the voluntary desegregation plan from 2018, during a special meeting Wednesday, April 28th. Longview ISD adopted the voluntary desegregation order three years ago to comply with rules set by the Department of Education’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program. Dr-James-Coleman. Dr. Craig Coleman, LISD Chief Innovation Officer, said the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights "requires districts that are operating under a voluntary desegregation plan to provide a signed letter each year that the district is implementing the voluntary desegregation plan."    (29) view article arw

US Marshals have arrested a 31-year-old Nolanville man after Killeen Special Victims Unit investigators completed a look into a child injury incident at a Killeen middle school. Members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task force arrested Michael Joseph Duvall in the 600 block of North Main Tuesday without incident. Killeen police got the case back on December 9, 2020 on a referral from Killeen ISD police officers. view article arw