Spring 2013

Employee Leave

David Jaworski, a term contract employee for South San Antonio ISD, missed a substantial amount of work after sustaining injuries in an automobile accident. Jaworski ultimately worked 102 of 187 work days. Jaworksi received compensation for 20 leave days—five state personal leave days, five local leave days, and ten local emergency leave days.

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Procedural Irregularity in Termination Hearing

Fort Worth ISD terminated the contract of teacher Joseph Palazzolo. The case had numerous issues, was hotly contested, and required six days of hearing. The independent hearing examiner worked over 213 hours on the hearing, and after the board took action on his recommendation, requested payment from the district in the amount of $26,693.31.

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Special Relationship

This case comes from Mississippi and involves tragic circumstances in which a nine year-old girl was permitted on multiple occasions to be checked out of school by an unauthorized adult who allegedly sexually assaulted her. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit concluded that based on the totality of the alleged circumstances, the school had a duty to protect the student from the injuries that she suffered.

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Unauthorized Practice of Law

TEA is charged with conducting due process hearings involving claims brought by parents of students with disabilities or school districts under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 2008, language was added to the IDEA regulations to clarify that the parties to due process hearings have a right to be accompanied and advised by counsel and by individuals with special knowledge or training with respect to the problems of children with disabilities, except that whether parties have the right to be represented by non-attorneys at due process hearings is determined under state law.

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Failure to Attend School

In 2011, the Legislature amended Texas Education Code section 25.094 to limit the range of students’ ages that commit an offense for failure to attend school to “12 years of age or older and younger than 18 years of age.” However, Texas Education Code section 25.085 provides that if a school district has adopted a policy requiring adult students who voluntarily attend school to comply with the district's attendance policy, Section 25.094 applies to that student.

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Tax Foreclosure

Wallace Poole is the former lease operator of record for a saltwater disposal well within the boundaries of West Hardin County CISD (West Hardin). In November 2004, West Hardin secured a tax foreclosure judgment against Poole in district court for back taxes owed on the lease. In 2005, the Texas Railroad Commission brought an enforcement action against Poole, as the operator of record, to bring the well into compliance with Commission rules, ordering that Poole plug the well and pay an administrative penalty.

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Whistleblower

Alice Gayle was employed as an administrator at Fort Bend ISD from 2006 to 2010. She alleged that she was wrongfully accused of falsifying school district records and that she was compelled to resign. She alleged that, prior to the accusation of wrongdoing against her, she made reports protected by the Texas Whistleblower Act. Gayle resigned after being informed that the school district administration was proposing her termination.

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School Finance

Multiple lawsuits were filed against the State of Texas alleging that the current system of public school finance violates the Texas Constitution. The cases were consolidated in Travis County District Court, and trial began on October 22, 2012.

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Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Parents of students attending Clint ISD filed suit against the school district claiming that the district does not equally or equitably fund students at different, comparable campuses within the district in violation of the Texas Constitution. Plaintiffs were represented by Jim Harrington and the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project (the El Paso office of the Texas Civil Rights Project).

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Affirmative Action

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Abigail Fisher asks the Court to either strike down UT’s admissions policy as inconsistent with the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger ruling, or alternatively, to reconsider (and overrule) Grutter. At the heart of both cases is the question of whether and to what extent the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” permits race to be used as a factor in efforts to achieve greater diversity in higher education. For more than three decades, the Court has said that although race may be one of numerous factors taken into account, it cannot be the predominant consideration in an admissions process.

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Liability for Defective Construction

Ewing Construction Company, Inc. (Ewing) entered into a contract with Tuloso-Midway Independent School District (TMISD), for construction of tennis courts at a school in Corpus Christi. Soon after the tennis courts were completed, TMISD complained that the courts were cracking and flaking, rendering them unfit for playing tennis. TMISD filed suit against Ewing, the architect, and the structural engineer seeking damages for defective construction.

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Employee Insurance Benefits

Several political subdivisions around the state, including Pflugerville ISD, extend insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners. Since Texas does not recognize or give legal status to a domestic partnership, the term “domestic partner” describes someone who meets the eligibility requirements of one’s insurance carrier.

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Appointment of a Board of Managers

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams announced on December 6, 2012, that he plans to appoint a five-member board of managers to oversee the El Paso Independent School District for up to two years, effectively stripping the board of trustees of their authority.

 

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Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Are home school parents who allege a violation of the school laws of the state required to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit against a school district and its employees?

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Weingarten Rights

Does Section 101.001 of the Texas Labor Code provide public employees with rights equivalent to so-called “Weingarten rights”—a private employee's right to representation by a labor organization during an internal investigatory interview when the employee reasonably believes the interview may result in disciplinary action?

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Professional Capacity

Are the positions of principal and assistant principal in the same professional capacity for purposes of reassignment? Jenkins v. Crosby Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 043-R10-121 (Texas Commissioner of Education). LAF’s Attorney: David P. Backus, Underwood Law Firm, P.C., Lubbock.

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