Reporting suspected abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services has always been an affirmative duty in Texas, and even more so for educators who bear additional responsibility to convey their concerns timely on behalf of students. One way that this duty is made less intimidating is the assurance that the identity of the reporter will be kept confidential. In this age of government transparency through Public Information Act requests and parent inspection of student records under FERPA, just how confidential can these reports stay? This is a common concern voiced by educators, and with good reason: doing the right thing under the reporting statute seldom wins friends.

In a November 13, 2017, To the Administrator Addressed bulletin, the Texas Education Agency issued its official form for use in complying with new requirements in Texas Education Code § 21.009 that applies to all applicants for educator positions at school districts, districts of innovation, open-enrollment charter schools, regional education service centers, or shared services arrangements.

Nearly 2,500 students could be heading to different schools next year after Dallas ISD trustees voted on plans to potentially shutter five campuses during a board meeting Thursday night. In front of a crowd of 200 at Lincoln High School, with over 40 public speakers, the board voted to move a middle school — Edison Middle Learning Center — to an existing high school and to combine two elementary schools, J.W. Ray and John F. Kennedy, at another elementary campus.  Two other schools, Carr and Titche elementaries, could be closed depending on their performance on state assessments . view article arw

Flu!  - PATTON SPRINGS, TX (KCBD) - Patton Springs ISD has also canceled classes for Thursday and Friday due to the amount of flu and strep throat cases in the district.  Classes will resume on Monday, Jan. 29. view article arw

If you closely read contracts for technology products and services your district uses, you will frequently see provisions in the contract regarding who owns the data within the technology application. “What data?” you ask. For example, you may have contracted with a provider to operate cloud- or Internet-based services for your student information system (SIS) or your special education data. These online services are just giant databases where you store all the information you once would have kept in dozens of filing cabinets. You can now enter into the database all the sensitive and personal information about students that you traditionally kept under lock and key. All that information is considered “personally identifiable information,” or PII, about each student. That PII also constitutes “educational records” about the student, and is information that is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Interlocal agreements received a publicity boost earlier this year due to the Texas Attorney General’s ruling that a school district may not operate a transportation system (for taking students to and from school) outside its boundaries unless it enters into an “interlocal contract as provided by Chapter 791, Government Code.” Interlocal agreements are a common occurrence for school districts. They are the primary way in which districts formalize arrangements with other local government entities.  

In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 693 related to three-point seat belts on buses that transport schoolchildren. S.B. 693, 85th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2017). Effective September 1, 2017, every bus operated by or contracted for use by a school district for the transportation of schoolchildren (included school-charted buses) shall be equipped with a three-point seat belt for each passenger, including the operator. Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § Senate Bill 693 (West 2017). According to the statute, a “bus” includes a school bus, school activity bus, multifunction school activity bus, or school-chartered bus. Id. The seat belt requirement does not apply to:

It seems that there may be some miscommunications about how long a district has to schedule a Manifestation Determination Review ARD (MDR) in conjunction with the disciplinary hearing when a special education student has committed a disciplinary infraction which merits a removal. At the majority of districts, administrators conduct the disciplinary hearing first to find whether the student has violated the Student Code of Conduct. Thereafter, the student is usually entitled to appeal the placement, typically pursuant to policy FNG (LOCAL), all the way to the Board of Trustees. In addition, if a student is a special education student, a MDR must be held within ten school-days of any decision to change the placement because of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

All school district staff should be aware that records they create and maintain are subject to records retention requirements. The district’s responsibilities are based on schedules developed by the Texas State Library Archives Commission (“TSLAC”), which are published in Title 13 of the Texas Administrative Code. These schedules are also referenced in board policies at CPC (LEGAL).

Senate Bill 1566 takes effect September 1, and it is a whopper of a bill. It is what is known as a “Christmas Tree Bill,” because it has something under it for everyone. It permits trustees to sue school districts over records requests, new localized websites from TEA, a public shaming rule for trustees that requires announcing their training hours before each election, new lice rules, and my favorite, the Patriotic Society provisions.

When a verbal or physical altercation is recorded on the school surveillance system, it can seem easier to determine which movie won the Oscar for 2017’s Best Picture than to figure out who gets to see the video, who gets a copy of it, and whose faces need to be blurred. Below we will open the big red envelope that we have double-checked is labeled “FERPA” to get our answer.

Want to raise money for your school? Just hold a raffle, right? Not so fast. In Texas, “lotteries and gift enterprises” (including raffles) are prohibited unless expressly authorized by the Texas Constitution.[1] Even if a raffle is authorized under the Texas Constitution, it must be conducted in strict accordance with the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act.[2]

In just one week Superintendents and School Boards will hold their collective breath in anticipation of the results of their bond elections. Will it be the result they dreaded? Or will the measure fail? That’s just a joke. Yes, of course, Superintendents and School Boards prefer the win to the loss, but if there were any game where the prize was the chance to make a 70 million dollar high school fit in a fifty million dollar budget and double your workload it would probably be named “What did I do?”

Should a district form a police department? As with all things legal, the answer is “it depends.” Some districts are located in an area where local law enforcement is 15 to 20 minutes away or longer. For an active shooter, that’s a long time to wait before help comes. Other districts may have contracted with the local police or sheriff’s department, but because of more demand for their services the schools don’t believe that they are getting enough protections from the officers. So for whatever reason, if your district would like to start a police department, this article will outline the various steps involved.Should a district form a police department?