When it comes to advising clients on construction-related matters, there are few things I hate more than having to tell a superintendent that they must stop in their tracks and put the project on a temporary hold because of legal requirements that may not have been considered prior to our telephone call. [WAIT: Before you start to tell yourself that this particular article might not apply to the project you are planning because it is “not construction,” bear in mind that I used the term “construction-related” for a reason]. Ironically, it is the smaller projects that prove to be the most problematic. The point of this article is not to list every single requirement that you will have to comply with when procuring and completing a small project. Rather, it is to show you one concrete step you can take to mitigate some of the delays that can arise and make the project go more smoothly.

SANTA FE, Texas — Every year, Flo Rice leaves town and finds somewhere quiet for the anniversary. This year, she and her husband, Scot, packed up their RV south of Houston and drove west to hike and camp in the West Texas mountains, where cell phone service can be spotty. Being able to hike is a thrill for Rice, who on May 18, 2018, was shot in her legs six times when a gunman opened fire inside Sante Fe High School, where she worked as a substitute teacher. “Every step I take is for the people we lost that day,” Rice said.    (13) view article arw

Uvalde police officers, Texas state troopers and members of the U.S. Border Patrol’s elite BORTAC squad all responded to the massacre at Robb Elementary a week ago. All were apparently brought to a standstill under the command of Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who officials say believed the shooter was no longer a risk to people in the school. But why was the school police chief, who oversaw, by far, the smallest law-enforcement agency that responded, in charge of the situation response in the first place? When it comes to who’s in charge, a department’s size doesn’t matter. In mass casualty events in which multiple agencies respond, the highest ranking officer from the agency that has jurisdiction over an emergency usually assumes control.    (02) view article arw

Graduation is a big life cycle event, and many students wish to take the opportunity to stand out amongst a wave of one-colored caps and gowns by decorating their regalia with their own personal expressions. We see honor cords, medals, and other tokens for awards and honors that the school hands out, but how should districts respond to students who wish to decorate their mortar board, their gown, or wear an additional stole not given to them by the school?

Pine Tree ISD’s high school and junior high campuses were among more than 2,200 power outages in Gregg County Monday morning. At 8:16 a.m., AEP-Southwestern Electric Power Co. reported there were 2,253 customers without power in the county as storms moved through the area. Smaller outages were reported in Harrison, Rusk, Smith and Upshur counties. At 7:46 a.m., Pine Tree ISD said in a statement on its Facebook page that the high school and junior high campuses do not have power but that classes are in session. read more arw

Regardless of how often school lawyers tell their clients to wait until 10 days before the last day of instruction, we do not actually live in a fantasy world, so we know you offer contracts earlier. Is there any way to protect yourself from the social media gaffe, occasional rant, or outright insubordination that comes from someone knowing they have a contract for another year and saying, so what are you going to do about it now? Termination can be pretty expensive, so let’s look at other options to protect the district.

If you don’t care about the Texas Constitution, stop reading. If you do, then read on. This article is one part civics, two parts history, mixed with one ounce of prevention. Let’s begin.

The Texas Constitution establishes three branches of government. The Legislative Branch is the only branch that can create a “legislative enactment.” The Executive Branch, which includes the office of the Governor, the Attorney General, and all of the state agencies, must work within the framework of a legislative enactment and can create rules to support the aims of a legislative enactment. The Judicial Branch interprets the laws and rules and sometimes is called to test the constitutionality of a legislative enactment. Of these three branches, only the Legislature has the power to make an act that was previously made legal by the Legislature into an illegal act. Think of the three branches like “rock-paper-scissors.” Okay, now… One! Two! Three! Throw!  It’s checks and balances. Civics lesson complete. History module commencing in 3…2…1…

Litigation can be extremely expensive and disruptive. While it is true that school districts in Texas enjoy broad governmental immunity, there are plenty of opportunities for disappointed parties to sue a school district. Reducing the risk of being sued requires lowering frustration levels and supporting the public’s perception of fairness in both the district’s process and the district’s treatment of complaints. Based on nearly three decades of “in the trenches” litigation work, people sue when they are frustrated and feel they have not been treated fairly. Given this insight, a district can reduce its risk of being sued by using the three Ps—process, perception, and preparation.

During the 87th Legislative Session, the Legislature made several revisions to the discipline of students receiving special education services under House Bill 785. It is imperative that districts are aware of, and comply with, these new requirements, which became effective on September 1, 2021. A summary is as follows:

During the 2021 Regular Legislative Session, there were a number of proposed bills regarding reading instruction considered by both the bodies of the Texas Legislature, but ultimately, none of the proposed legislation survived the lawmaking gauntlet to be passed into law.

This year, the legislature passed House Bill 1525 during the regular session and Senate Bill 9 during the second special legislative session, pertaining to School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) and human sexuality. These two new laws create a set of requirements for SHACs, school boards, and school districts.

Many school districts are utilizing ESSER III funds for HVAC projects. This is a good opportunity to look at common issues that can arise in the procurement process for these projects.

At the outset of the pandemic, Governor Abbott suspended portions of the Texas Open Meetings Act making it easier for school boards to meet by telephone or videoconference. That suspension ends at 12:01 a.m. on September 1, 2021. Starting on September 1, 2021, boards must again comply with all parts of the TOMA. Telephonic and videoconference meetings are still viable options for school boards, but certain prerequisites must be met.

With school starting, you may have students enroll who arrive with notations on their records that they did not return or pay for all their textbooks or technological equipment at their previous campuses. While this may sound like a trivial issue, the Texas Legislature wanted to give schools some teeth to recover or replace learning materials damaged or lost by students. The teeth the Legislature gave schools may not be long and sharp, but schools now have more than plastic chattering teeth with which to recover the materials or the money to replace those materials.