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Sometime soon this session, the Legis­lat­ure will send to Gov. Greg Abbott an update to the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) to reinstate provisions, struck down by the state's highest criminal court, governing "walking quorums" – serial private meetings of public officials that allow them to make decisions that should by law be done in public. Lawmakers will be proud of themselves for having done so, for "government transparency" is a sacred shibboleth among reporters and politicians alike – even (or especially) among those who routinely meet privately, make political and policy agreements privately, and reflexively count votes privately. "Hypocrisy," as La Rochefoucauld mused centuries ago, "is the tribute vice pays to virtue." view article arw

This Spring, several districts across the country have received letters from the OCR concerning their Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”).  The CRDC is a data collection conducted every other year, and per Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ January 2019 announcement is part of “a new initiative to address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in order to protect children with disabilities.”  A critical component to the initiative requires data quality reviews of 2015-2016 data submissions regarding instances of restraint or seclusion.

Interesting situation that could happen in Texas - js - Cuyahoga Falls, Woodridge and six other Ohio school districts are suing Facebook for about $250,000 in public education funding lost when the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow imploded last year. The districts, which may never be made whole for state funding they lost when ECOT inflated attendance, are alleging that Facebook knew the online charter school was financially failing when it sold ads to help ECOT boost enrollment. That, under Ohio law, would be an illegal and “fraudulent transfer.” view article arw

Burkburnett ISD said a juvenile has been arrested in connection with the online threat made against the middle school on March 28. On Monday, the district was alerted by a parent who was able to provide information that led to identifying and locating the juvenile they said made the threat. view article arw

A lawsuit filed against Frisco ISD and its six sitting board members claims the school district’s elections for trustees violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The suit, filed April 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, states that the at-large system “as currently used by the district, effectively denies representation to Asian voters, Hispanic voters, African American voters and other people of color.” FISD board President John Classe and the school district said they have not received any legal notice of the lawsuit and would not comment at this time. view article arw

The Manor school board Tuesday night voted to hire an outside attorney to conduct an investigation of Superintendent Royce Avery regarding an employee complaint alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The board also voted to hire a different lawyer to serve as a hearing officer in an unrelated grievance against a fellow trustee. The board did not disclose the specifics of that grievance or say against which trustee the complaint was made. The board met behind closed doors for more than three hours to address the two issues before voting 5-0 to hire lawyer Kevin Lungwitz to conduct an investigation into the complaint against Avery, and 5-0 to hire lawyer Ifeoma Ibekwe to serve as the hearing officer in the grievance — a formal complaint that demands resolution — against the unnamed trustee. view article arw

The Frisco school district's at-large system for electing trustees discriminates against the rapidly growing Asian population in the area, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. The voting-rights lawsuit is the third in a year against a North Texas school district, all brought by the Brewer Storefront, the pro bono affiliate of the firm Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, which has also filed voting-rights suits against several other districts and cities. view article arw

A law firm that for decades has represented governments across the state in collecting delinquent taxes is accused of improperly “robo-signing” hundreds of legal documents over the last several years, calling into question the legitimacy of millions of dollars in tax enforcement actions.  A lawsuit filed in state district court in Dallas by title company TinStar alleges that since 2015 Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson has, without proper authority, notarized documents attesting to property boundaries. The properties in question are those on which owners have been sued for unpaid taxes.  view article arw

The La Joya school board authorized district administrators to negotiate a contract with three new attorneys Wednesday night.  Trustees authorized district administrators to negotiate a contract with state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., Palmview City Attorney Eric Flores and his wife, Victoria.  “I strongly have always believed that we should give a chance to our own. Our people from within our district and within our area,” said school board Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas. “And, then again, if our people can’t do it, then you have to go out and look for the best-qualified person. Such as we’re doing right now for the superintendent.”  The proposal caused a stir in western Hidalgo County. view article arw

Families whose loved ones perished in last year's Florida high school massacre told a state commission Wednesday they waited hours, often alone in a room, before being told of the death in a process that seemed chaotic and lacking empathy. Parents of students Luke Hoyer, Gina Montalto and Jaime Guttenberg and the wife of athletic director Chris Hixon told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission stories whose details differed but carried the thread that the Broward Sheriff's Office had no apparent protocol for notifying families of a mass tragedy, which led to confusion in the hours after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting that left 17 dead and 17 wounded. view article arw

La Joya ISD is back in the news again, and not for good reason. Many of us learned recently that the small, underperforming district spent $20 million to build a water park – and that a lot of that funding came from state taxpayers. It was also discovered that the district lost roughly $250,000 running the park in its first year and that its golf course also ran a big deficit, too, costing taxpayers almost $300,000. view article arw

A Highland Park student is apologizing after making a racist comment on social media. The student directed the comment at Gabriel Letcher, a sophomore lacrosse player at Episcopal School of Dallas. Letcher is African American. Following a lacrosse match on March 29 between Highland Park and ESD, a comment on an Instagram post said, “[Letcher] could kick ur a**.” view article arw

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was surprised and dismayed that the former board president of Dallas County Schools is not going to prison for his role in the DCS criminal conspiracy. "Now I'm not a lawyer and I don't understand this. But so many people question the equity in our criminal justice system. This is Exhibit A," Rawlings said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5's Meredith Land.  Rawlings was referencing the differences in the punishment for Larry Duncan, who led the DCS board for over a decade, and former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway. view article arw

Larry Duncan, the former board president of Dallas County Schools, is scheduled to learn his punishment Tuesday morning after pleading guilty to tax evasion in the Dallas County Schools criminal conspiracy. Duncan, who led the DCS board for a decade and, before that, served four terms as a Dallas City Council member, could receive as much as a year in federal prison -- a term agreed upon in a plea deal -- when he goes before U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn at 8 a.m. Tuesday. view article arw

A former counselor at a Lindale ISD elementary school has been arrested and accused of furnishing a prescription pill to a student last month. Monica Paige Mize, 45, of Lindale, is charged with second-degree delivery of a controlled substance to a minor. Lindale ISD police obtained a warrant for Mize’s arrest on March 20. She was booked into the Smith County Jail two days later, and she posted a $10,000 bond the same day, according to jail records. view article arw

An Austin ISD principal is on leave and under investigation after multiple grievances were filed against her, claiming she discriminated against undocumented families, students and staff. The education advocacy group East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition organized a press conference outside Andrews Elementary Monday. view article arw

A federal judge on Friday sentenced former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway to 56 months in prison for his role in a corruption case that shook City Hall and took down an agency responsible for the transportation and safety of schoolchildren. The sentence marked the tragic conclusion of Caraway's lengthy city government career, which began after several failed council runs, included a stint as acting mayor and ended with his guilty plea in August for accepting about $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks between 2011 and 2017.  During the hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn often referred to the positive work Caraway had done. But, she said, all the good things he accomplished were erased the moment he became "just another bought and paid-for politician." view article arw

Kemp ISD and the Kemp Police Department are investigating a former Kemp High School teacher and coach, who resigned last week, for alleged improper relationships with multiple students. Kemp Police Chief Suzanne Martin could not provide any specific details on the case but confirmed to inForney.com on Wednesday that the department has been investigating the allegations since March 21. Martin, who is leading the investigation, said the case remains open and the investigation is “ongoing”. Martin says the case will be handed over to the Kaufman County District Attorney’s office once it is concluded. There have been no arrests or formal charges filed as of press time. view article arw

Investigators arrested a former custodian at Sharyland North Junior High last week after students said he offered to pay them for oral sex. Two boys said that custodian Manuel Martinez, 56, of McAllen touched them inappropriately and offered to pay them for oral sex, according to court records. A third boy witnessed the incidents. view article arw

A problem with the meeting agenda blocked the La Joya school board from making a major decision Wednesday.  The district apparently didn’t notify Board President Claudia Ochoa of an addendum to the meeting agenda — “Discussion and Possible Action to Retain Flores, Muñoz & Flores for General Counsel” — which prevented the board from discussing the item. view article arw

In the wake of an Angelina County grand jury handing down three indictments in connection to a case involving alleged hazing inside the Huntington ISD baseball program, a 17-year-old suspect has turned himself into authorities. Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches confirmed that the suspect, Mario Martinez, turned himself in at the sheriff’s office Friday afternoon. He has since bonded out of jail. view article arw

A Grand Prairie ISD trustee says taxpayers may be getting a raw deal on a new lease agreement. The district is leasing property bought for $1 million to an organization for just $50 a month. The district originally paid $1 million for the property so the land could relieve a crowded bus barn. Instead, the district struck a deal with an organization that has ties to the former employer of a school board member. view article arw

An Angelina County grand jury has handed out the first criminal indictments in a case involving alleged hazing inside the Huntington Independent School District baseball program. Angelina County District Attorney Joe Martin confirmed that four counts spread across three indictments were associated with one alleged adult suspect. view article arw

Two years later, a Seguin school district official has filed a lawsuit accusing current Raymondville Superintendent Stetson Roane of sexual harassment. Halcy Martin Dean, the Seguin school district’s special education director, claims Roane made sexual advances in January 2017 while he served as that district’s superintendent. Roane denies the allegation. view article arw

Lewisville ISD has denied claims its at-large voting system for school board trustees puts Hispanics and other minorities at a disadvantage, according to a federal court filing. The filing March 22 was the district’s first public response to the Feb. 12 lawsuit that claimed the district and its school board are violating the federal Voting Rights Act. view article arw

We are just learning about an alleged sexting ring that was busted in Tomball ISD. The school district says between 8 and 12 students were involved.  No charges have been filed yet, but Tomball police are investigating. Tomball ISD released the following statement to KHOU 11 News: "Tomball ISD is aware of inappropriate photos sent via text messages between students within the district. District officials were notified and immediately began working with local law enforcement. Tomball PD is currently handling the investigation at this time. As always, Tomball ISD takes any allegations of this matter seriously and does its best to ensure that students are held responsible for their actions. The number of students involved is anywhere between 8 and 12. We are still in the investigative phase and are working closely with the Tomball Police Department. At this time, there is no new information to release." view article arw

A former Seguin ISD superintendent is at the center of a lawsuit that accuses him of making unwanted sexual advances at a conference, while he insists he was only helping the district employee with her luggage. The dueling versions of events were spelled out in filings with the 98th District Court in Travis County.  view article arw

A high school teacher at Quinlan ISD in Hunt County has been arrested and charged for an improper relationship with a student, authorities said. Arthur V. Galope Jr. was arrested on Friday after school district police investigated reports of a relationship between him and a student at Ford High School. view article arw

The two Houston residents charged in the nationwide college admissions and bribery scam ran a testing center at Jack Yates High School that allegedly helped at least three out-of-town students cheat on their exams, according to court documents.  William Rick Singer, the alleged mastermind behind the scandal, instructed clients willing to pay to get their children into prestigious schools — that he “controlled” the testing center at Yates, where Houston resident Niki Williams worked as a teaching assistant, according to court documents. view article arw

A deaf man whose son attends Tafolla Middle School has sued the San Antonio Independent School District, claiming he requested sign language interpreters for multiple parent-teacher conferences but was never provided them as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws. Cleto Rodriguez — not to be confused with the local comedian of the same name — filed the suit last year in federal court in the Western District of Texas. He seeks unspecified damages, said his lawyer, Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum in New York, a firm that works with clients who are deaf or hard of hearing. view article arw

No right to know?

March 1508:40 AM
 

This is Sunshine Week, when advocates of open government celebrate the value of the First Amendment and assess the state of freedom of information. Look for more coverage Friday on houstonchronicle.com and Sunday on page A1. view article arw

A University of Houston baseball recruit is among two teens accused in a crime in Nacogdoches. Investigators said Triston Smith, 18, and Jacek Karczewski, 17, were at Smith's house on Feb. 20 when two underage girls came over around 11:30 p.m. The girls were served vodka and one of them was sexually assaulted by Smith and Karczewski on Smith's father's bed, according to court documents. view article arw

Federal prosecutors unsealed hundreds of pages of court documents on Tuesday indicting dozens of people in a massive alleged bribery scheme, implicating college coaches, wealthy parents of prospective students, college entrance exam administrators, and even a few Hollywood actors—including Full House‘s Lori Loughlin and Desperate Housewives‘ Felicity Huffman—who allegedly conspired to help underqualified rich kids get into top schools, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Texas-Austin. Among the indicted was the head coach of UT-Austin’s men’s tennis team and an administrator at an HISD college entrance testing center. Here’s a rundown of the complicated case and its Texas connections. view article arw

Famed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said a nationwide college admission cheating scandal will go down as one of the “great scandals of the 21st Century” and that Tuesday’s news is just  the “tip of the iceberg.” “This is the worst scandal involving elite universities in the history of the United States,” Dershowitz said on “Outnumbered Overtime.” view article arw

Three Texas residents have been indicted in a college testing scheme that helped arrange bribes, facilitated cheating on major college entrance exams, and coordinated under-the-table recruitment in order to get students into elite universities around the country. Houston resident Lisa “Niki” Williams, who administered the exams at a test center a local public high school, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering for “facilitating cheating on ACT and SAT exams in exchange for bribes,” and allowing a third party to take tests for students and provide or correct students’ responses on exams, according to court documents. view article arw