Spring 2015

Nonrenewal Hearings

Los Fresnos CISD nonrenewed the contract of teacher Jorge Vazquez after a parent complained that Vazquez disparaged students by making fun of their weight and appearance.  The district relied on written student statements to support the nonrenewal at the nonrenewal hearing.  On appeal to the commissioner, Vazquez argued that the district should not have considered the statements because they were inadmissible hearsay under the Texas Rules of Evidence (TRE).

According to the commissioner, the TRE apply when a district uses an Independent Hearing Examiner to conduct a nonrenewal hearing.  However, nonrenewal hearings before the board of trustees, such as in this case, are less formal, and liberal exceptions to the hearsay rules apply.  These exceptions allow the board to rely on student statements that would otherwise be inadmissible hearsay as long as the statements are:  (1) necessary to ascertain facts not reasonably susceptible of proof under the TRE; (2) not precluded by statute; and (3) of the type on which a reasonably prudent person commonly relies.  Tex. Gov’t Code § 2001.081.  The commissioner held that the facts in the statements were not reasonably susceptible to proof under the TRE taking judicial notice that parents would not be comfortable subjecting their children to cross examination at a nonrenewal hearing.  Therefore, the commissioner held that the student statements were properly admitted under the liberal hearsay exceptions and upheld the nonrenewal.

Vazquez appealed the commissioner’s decision to Travis County District Court, which reversed the commissioner and remanded, directing the commissioner to order reinstatement and backpay.  The district court reasoned that the record contained no evidence to support the commissioner’s finding that parents would not be comfortable subjecting their children to cross-examination.

The district appealed the district court’s decision to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin.  LAF filed a brief with the court on February 3, 2015.  Los Fresnos Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Vasquez, No. 03-14-00629-CV (Tex. App.—Austin).  LAF’s Attorney: Clay Grover, Rogers, Morris & Grover, L.L.P., Houston