On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 1319, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, an emergency legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are likely familiar with the $1,400 direct cash payments for qualifying individuals and $2,800 for joint filers (with an additional $1,400 for each qualifying dependent) based on adjusted gross income, and the minimum wage provision that was not included. But what’s in it for Texas public school districts?

A former head of an Alabama school district has pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.  A former head of an Alabama school district has pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.  Tom Sisk, former superintendent for Limestone County Schools, entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. He appeared by video teleconference in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerusha T. Adams, multiple news agencies reported.  Sisk is one of six people facing charges in an alleged multi-million dollar scheme. Prosecutors said the indictment alleges that the defendants were involved in a complicated scheme to fraudulently enroll students in public virtual schools. Private school students were wrongly counted as being enrolled in online classes through public schools to boost attendance by hundreds and obtain additional state funding, the indictment said. view article arw

Miami ISD Superintendent Donna Hale released a statement after the indictment of three students on multiple charges, including sexual assault. According to the Canadian Record, Hale released the statement after the arrest and indictment of Tanner Cummings Miller, Rance Ely Moreno and Tristen Leo Douglas. view article arw

SWEENY — The Sweeny ISD Education Foundation’s finances for the last decade will go under review as the district’s trustees approve the plan adopted by the foundation board. “We agreed to do the 10-year (review), but if there’s anything we can go back to the inception of the foundation?” Donna Bohlar-Schroeder asked during the foundation’s board meeting Wednesday morning. view article arw

The Klein Independent School District said it is investigating after a seventh-grade student was hit in the back of the head with a laptop. James Blackshire said a video shows his 13-year-old son Jeremiah getting stuck by another student on Monday at Wunderlich Intermediate School. “I watched it one time. I was angry,” Blackshire said. “That angered me to see my son get hit like that when he don’t deserve it.” view article arw

The lawsuit argues that being blocked from viewing the attorney general's tweets is a violation of the First Amendment because it limits the right of people to participate in a public forum and access Ken Paxton's statements. view article arw

Advocacy group Disability Rights Texas has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Austin ISD, alleging that the district has denied free and appropriate public education to thousands of students, including the five plaintiffs, by not evaluating their special education needs timely as required by law. The group is calling for sweeping changes: "Austin ISD is failing its students with disabilities because its evaluation system is broken," reads the complaint. The civil suit asks AISD to expedite evaluations and provide compensatory services for the student plaintiffs, and to make broad changes – including hiring many new specialists – to fix the issues identified. view article arw

A Garland ISD employee is on administrative leave after allegedly taking photos of a female elementary school student while she was in the restroom. The incident reportedly took place during the week of March 29 at Abbett Elementary, according to an email sent to parents on Thursday, April 1. view article arw

AUSTIN, Texas — On March 30, Disability Rights Texas announced a federal lawsuit against Austin ISD that alleges the district violated the law by not evaluating hundreds of students for learning accommodations in a timely fashion. There are documented issues with special education at districts across Central Texas and around the state, which CBS Austin has been investigating for months. Breakdowns in the system are forcing some parents to file legal action and some districts to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle. view article arw

The Henderson County District Attorney’s Office has recused itself in the case against the bus driver accused in the death of an Athens ISD student. Jenny Palmer took over of John Franklin Stevens, 80, of the DA’s office in January. On Feb. 10, Palmer filed a motion to recuse, citing a conflict of interest. In the motion, she stated the attorney general’s office has agreed to prosecute the case. view article arw

A group of parents are suing the Katy Independent School District, calling its continued requirement for masks in schools unconstitutional and a violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order from last month that lifted the statewide mask mandate, among other COVID-19 safety restrictions. The lawsuit, filed Thursday by a Houston attorney for parents Bonnie Anderson, Jenny Alexander, Doug Alexander, Heather Calhoun and Stephen Calhoun, takes issue with the district’s safety protocols for in-person schooling, specifically its requirement that students wear masks in hallways, buses and other common areas. view article arw

SWEENY — After deliberating for more than two hours in executive session, the Sweeny ISD Board of Trustees voted to seek the attorney general’s opinion on a constituent’s request for public information. Tommye Heinroth worked for Randy Miksch as his secretary while he was the principal of Sweeny High School and after he became district superintendent, until her retirement in August 2013, she said. view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Austin Independent School District on behalf of five families who say they’ve been denied critical special education services as required by law. The plaintiffs include a four-year-old with autism and expressive language disorder, a six-year-old with sensory processing disorder and ADHD, a five-year-old with suspected anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, a six-year-old with a speech impairment and dyslexia and a 10-year-old with emotional disturbance, learning disabilities and autism.    (30) view article arw

ACTON — Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District agreed to pay $726,606 to the state, as part of a settlement, in one of the largest fraud schemes targeting educational dollars for kindergarten through 12th grade students in the nation, the San Diego County District Attorney said. The District will make eight quarterly payments of about $90,825 each, starting July 1. The last payment will be due April 1, 2023. Acton-Agua Dulce Unified was one of six school districts that authorized A3 Charter Schools and collected millions of dollars in oversight fees in excess of statutory limits under state Education Code without tracking the actual costs, according to San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link. view article arw

A Coppell ISD educator has been arrested after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. Mercedes Genevieve Coloso, 32, was taken into custody Monday morning on charges of sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and improper relationship between an educator and student. It was unclear whether she had an attorney. Coppell police said they became aware of the allegations Saturday. view article arw

Former London ISD high school teacher Amber Prince was arrested Monday for allegedly having an improper relationship with a student, according to the Nueces County Sheriff's Office. view article arw

(The Center Square) – In response to an inquiry from state Rep. James White, R–Hillister, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion on school district policy related to vaccine mandates. White expressed concerns about a news report issued by KSAT-TV in San Antonio, pointing to mandatory vaccine requirements. Prior to students enrolling in school last fall, vaccine requirements (not COVID vaccines) were mandatory, although there were some exemptions.    (24) view article arw

Cassie Dowden has been sentenced by a judge Wednesday after pleading guilty to having sex with a teenager in the school district where she was employed. Dowden has been sentenced to 10 years adjudicated, a $10,000 fine, $7,000 probated. She will be required to attend counseling. She must go to jail Wednesday through Sunday this week, plus 30 more days in the Gregg County Jail. She is required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous for five years. She will have to do community service. She will have another hearing in a year, the judge stated. view article arw

When in-person classes resumed last fall, white students at a Houston-area high school wore masks with the Confederate flag to show support for then-President Donald Trump.  Following the 2020 election, graffiti proclaiming “Black Lives Don’t Matter” appeared on a wall in a student bathroom, where it remained until early February. That same month, administrators removed posters of Vice President Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama days after they were put up to mark Black History Month, with one administrator saying they needed to be replaced with more unifying messages.  The alleged incidents were among several described in a new court filing that’s part of a federal lawsuit challenging the Barbers Hill ISD’s hair and grooming policy. The suit alleges escalating racial tension in the district and its high school east of Houston “for reasons both related and unrelated to the facts underlying” the suit.    (19) view article arw

HISD Board wins again in court Mar 21st, 2021  They’re still a thing, and Mike Morath can’t do anything about it right now. The Houston ISD school board earned another win Friday in its effort to stave off Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s plan to replace it with an appointed board, this time prevailing in a procedural battle before the state Supreme Court. In an 8-1 decision, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a state appellate court had the legal right to temporarily halt Morath’s move to oust HISD’s school board amid an ongoing lawsuit.    (22) view article arw

A former Connellsville Area School District resource officer has been charged after police said he slammed a student to the ground and handcuffed him after he refused to go to the principal’s office. Officer James Shaw Sr., 54, is charged with a felony count of false imprisonment of a minor, and four felony counts of intercepting communications. He also faces two simple assault counts, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, coerce/threat accuse of crime and harassment, according to court documents. view article arw

The Plano Independent School District announced Tuesday it has completed its investigation into a bullying report involving a middle school boy who says he was forced to drink urine at an off-campus sleepover. "District policy mandates any internal investigation into allegations of bullying must be completed within 10 business days after an initial report," according to the Plano ISD. The district went on to say, " The district's investigation of this off-campus event has been thorough, has been done with the cooperation of all parties involved in this incident, and it is now complete… while privacy laws prohibit us from sharing specific student disciplinary actions, Plano ISD's anti-bullying policy and the Student Code of Conduct describe possible consequences and options for corrective action. view article arw

PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Plano ISD announced Tuesday, March 16, disciplinary action has been taken two weeks after an extreme case of bullying at an off-campus sleepover. The mother of a 13-year-old Haggard Middle School student said her child was subjected to racial slurs and worse. view article arw

Did a murder suspect attend Belton High School? It depends on what question you ask the district’s top communication official. The Belton Independent School District supplied two answers to the Telegram when it asked on March 1 about the enrollment of murder suspect Robert Garnett, 17, who is charged in the death of Belton High School junior Fernando Martinez, 16. The Telegram is writing a series of stories on Sunshine Week, which focuses on open records and transparency in government. view article arw

Lufkin ISD sent two letters asking for clarification to the Lufkin branch of the NAACP, one of which asked for clarification on personnel and confidentiality.  The Lufkin branch of the NAACP requested 15 years of information from Lufkin ISD through multiple requests for information.  The requests asked for “employment records of staff, which include hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, firing, transfer, position placement, listed by race, gender and dates when these actions were taken,” and “listing of type of funding for programs to assist and help students of all races and gender especially special needs of students of color or handicap and support groups to assist and help all the students without any bias toward them,” according to a document sent to The Lufkin Daily News by the Rev. Sylvester McClain, the NAACP branch president. view article arw

SOUTHLAKE, Texas - A group of parents sent a letter demanding a North Texas school district move forward with a plan that battles racism.  That plan was put on hold after a different group of parents complained.  - A group of parents sent a letter demanding a North Texas school district move forward with a plan that battles racism. That plan was put on hold after a different group of parents complained.    (15) view article arw

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Killeen ISD has given hourly employees “Due Process” at the administrative procedural level and some job security. The district will no longer be able to randomly fire hourly employees at any given moment. Rick Beaule with the Killeen Educator’s Association says he was very pleased with the decision. “It means everything for hourly employees that were considered to be at will,” he said. view article arw

The Lufkin chapter of the NAACP is asking questions about the district’s hiring practices and standardized testing results. The organization also is asking about how money granted to Lufkin ISD to help minority students is being used. The Lufkin chapter of the NAACP has requested years of school records to help get answers to those questions and more. Chapter president Sylvester McClain says they have filed an open records request for documents from the past 15 years. view article arw

Killeen ISD has given hourly employees “Due Process” at the administrative procedural level and some job security. The district will no longer be able to randomly fire hourly employees at any given moment. Rick Beaule with the Killeen Educator’s Association says he was very pleased with the decision. “It means everything for hourly employees that were considered to be at will,” he said. “3,000 plus employees now do not have to go into work with the fear of suddenly being termination or have the threat of termination dangling over their heads to ensure compliance.” view article arw

Pursuant to subsection 38.001(f) of the Education Code, the Legislature provided that a student who has not received the immunizations required by law “for reasons of conscience, including because of the person’s religious beliefs, may be excluded from school in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of public health.” Read in context, a court likely would conclude that this exception does not permit exclusion of students who lack vaccinations unrelated to an existing "epidemic" contemplated by subsection 38.001(f). view article arw

Texas’ statewide mask mandate has ended as of March 10. Businesses are also now allowed to operate at full capacity as long as the hospitals in their region haven’t been treating a large share of patients for COVID-19. Here’s a look at what the loosened restrictions mean for Texans.  Texas’ statewide mask mandate has ended as of March 10. Businesses are also now allowed to operate at full capacity as long as the hospitals in their region haven’t been treating a large share of patients for COVID-19. Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was loosening those restrictions so “businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”    (10) view article arw

A Muleshoe ISD employee has been arrested after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. The employee, 61-year-old William Alan Shelly of Portales, New Mexico, is currently on a federal hold in the Lubbock County Detention Center. According to a statement released by the Superintendent for the Muleshoe Independent School District, Shelly has been charged with enticing a minor. The FBI is handling the case. view article arw

The Texas school district has hired a third party to investigate other bullying allegations that happened prior to this year. Plano ISD expects the investigation into bullying allegations from a 13-year-old student at Haggard Middle School to be released next week, officials said Tuesday. Plano police are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime. This comes after hundreds gathered Friday in support of the Plano boy, whose family says was the victim of physical abuse and racial taunts. view article arw

AUSTIN – In times of an epidemic, the Texas Administrative Code allows for children who have not been vaccinated for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs, to be excluded from school. Back in July, Rep. James White asked the Office of the Attorney General to clarify the code, concerned that school districts might attempt to exclude students, “even though no vaccine for COVID-19 exists.” A vaccine has since been developed since White’s opinion request, and on March Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a response, opining that a court likely would conclude that the exception does not permit exclusion of students who lack vaccinations unrelated to an existing epidemic. view article arw

Plano ISD expects the investigation into bullying allegations from a 13-year-old student at Haggard Middle School to be released next week, officials said Tuesday. Plano police are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime. This comes after hundreds gathered Friday in support of the Plano boy, whose family says was the victim of physical abuse and racial taunts. Two weeks ago, a video surfaced of him being forced to drink a yellow liquid at a sleepover birthday party in mid-February. The family said it was urine. The family claims he has been subjected to two years of physical and verbal abuse, including racial threats by students at the school. The district also shared Tuesday that a third party was hired to investigate any previous allegations of bullying where the boy was a victim. view article arw