At this point we don’t need to impress upon you the meaningful impacts that a well-written District of Innovation (“DOI”) Plan can have on school operations. After nearly ten years of the DOI experiment, it’s no secret that these plans are powerful tools—especially if properly drafted. Whether your District is seeking to adopt a plan for the first time, to renew an expiring plan, or to amend an existing plan, you must ensure that you carefully consider including the latest and greatest exemptions. This quick article will address some of the most popular and emerging innovations worth considering.

We see it every year: parents trying to opt their child out of STAAR testing. Some claim it’s against their religious beliefs, some claim it’s bad for their children’s mental health, and some have no problem stating they just don’t want to participate. Below we’ll discuss the constellation of consequences that students may face for their parent’s choice of opting out, and what issues your school district might encounter if more and more parents begin to follow this trend.

The State Board of Education is proposing amendments to 19 Tex. Admin. Code Ch. 74, as well as revamping and rewriting the Dyslexia Handbook, proposed to be called the “Texas Dyslexia and Dysgraphia Handbook.”

In Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Still, the First Amendment does not provide students absolute rights to such freedoms. Schools have a special interest in regulating on-campus student speech when it “materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school,” or such a disruption could be reasonably forecasted, or the speech “impinge[s] upon the rights of other students.” Balancing those competing interests, Tinker provides the standard for evaluating whether the First Amendment protects a student’s speech. Since Tinker, the Court has revisited student speech on multiple occasions, each time carving out narrow exceptions to the general Tinker standard based on certain characteristics or content of the speech, to include Tinker’s reach to off-campus student speech.

If you have spent more than five minutes in a Texas public school, you are likely aware that students must meet certain academic requirements to maintain extracurricular eligibility. At the end of each grading cycle, we hear the refrain echoing down the halls of the school—No pass, no play. With a slogan that simple, you would think the application would be straightforward. Not necessarily. Confusion seems to have arisen from UIL’s apparent interpretation of section 38.081 of the Education Code governing extracurricular eligibility and how it applies to students receiving special education and related services. It is important to understand both the statute itself as well as UIL’s interpretation to best position yourself to defend your eligibility decisions.

Texas Education Code (TEC) Chapter 37 outlines legal requirements for student discipline and the maintaining of law and order within schools, including required student discipline training for staff. Safety and security in schools is not just law enforcement’s responsibility but also the duty of all school staff—administrators, teachers, and support staff alike. Providing school staff with the necessary knowledge and tools for effective student behavior management has never been more critical than in today’s school climate. With a focus in school safety, applying the appropriate discipline management techniques for the situation can make the difference between effectively redirecting student misconduct or involuntarily escalating student behavior resulting in threatening or violent conduct that puts staff and students at risk.

Warning: Do not read this article if you like having the rug pulled out from under your feet. I’ll wait. . . . This article is based on language found in the current standard contract published by the American Institute of Architects for Construction Management at Risk Projects. It is often referred to as the “A133” 2019 edition. ALWAYS consult your attorney before signing one. NEVER make assumptions about whether your contract has been modified or not. Construction contracts are A BIG DEAL – maybe the BIGGEST DEAL you will do in your ENTIRE LIFE. Also remember “standard contracts” are not free from hazards. In “standard contracts,” the hazards are simply “standard.”

You may have heard by now that the Department of Labor has released a new proposed rule that it claims will restore overtime pay to 3.6 million employees making less than $1,059 per week, which is about $55,000 per year. The current threshold is $684 per week or $35,568 per year. The DOL also proposes raising the threshold for highly compensated employees to $143,988 from $107,432. In addition to these initial hikes, the DOL is proposing future automatic increases every three years to reflect current earnings data. The comment period opened on Friday, September 8, 2023, with the official publication of the rule and continues for 60 days, or until November 7, 2023. Please consider commenting about how this proposal will impact schools.

In 2021, the Texas Education Agency adopted new Facilities Standards for projects beginning after November 1, 2021. While the bulk of these Standards impose technical requirements on the design of facilities (square footage, etc.), they also contain explicit, concrete steps that a school district must take as part of the process. This article covers three specific actions: (1) preparing a Long Range Plan, (2) adopting Educational Specifications, and (3) formally establishing a budget during the design process.

Following the violent tragedies experienced in Uvalde ISD, Santa Fe ISD, and other schools around the country, Texans have since demanded state leaders effectuate change to prevent future tragedies impacting our schools. Well… the 88th Texas Legislature provided us with several significant changes impacting school security, including panic alert systems, facilities standards, and as we will explore in this article, armed security personnel. Even if this isn’t the change we all envisioned, you need to be aware of the actions your District needs to promptly take in order to ensure your compliance with House Bill 3.

On May 27, 2023, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 567, known as “the CROWN Act”—an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”—which amends sections 25.902 and 51.979 of the Texas Education Code, and goes into effect on September 1, 2023. The bill provides that no school district may promulgate a student dress or grooming policy—for both curricular and extracurricular activities—which discriminates against a hair texture, or “protective hairstyle” commonly or historically associated with race. A “protective hairstyle” includes “braids, locks, and twists.”

On March 21, 2023, the US Supreme Court issued a decision that has the potential to impact special education litigation and the costs associated with such cases. In Perez v. Sturgis Pub. Sch., 3 F4th 236 (6th Cir.), the Supreme Court expanded on a 2017 case, Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, regarding the ability of a student to sue a public school over educational services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).