Summer 2014

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

This case balances the right to home school one’s children against the right of a school district to investigate what curriculum is being used in the home.  It also answers the question of whether home school parents who allege a school district has violated the school laws of the state are required to file a grievance and exhaust administrative remedies before suing the district and its employees.

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Professional Capacity

The LAF Board previously approved filing an amicus brief in the case of Jenkins v. Crosby ISD (See LAF Docket, Winter 2014, Recent Decisions).  After the commissioner held in favor of the school district, upholding Jenkin’s reassignment from intermediate school principal to high school assistant principal, Jenkins appealed to the Travis County District Court.  Jenkins argues that assistant principal is not the same professional capacity as principal.  LAF has approved continuing its assistance in this case by filing an amicus brief with the district court.

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Advertising in Schools

The LAF Board previously approved filing an amicus brief in the case of Little Pencil, LLC v. Lubbock Independent School District (See LAF Docket, Spring 2014, Recent Decisions).  After the Northern District of Texas Lubbock Division held in favor of the school district, upholding its rejection of the JesusTattoo advertisement, Little Pencil appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Little Pencil argues that Lubbock ISD violated its First Amendment rights by rejecting its advertisement.  LAF has approved continuing its assistance in this case by filing an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit. 

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Using Certified Estimate to Adopt Tax Rate

On July 9, 2014, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams requested the opinion of the Texas Attorney General regarding whether a district may, after adopting its budget, set a tax rate and call a TRE using the certified estimate of property tax values rather than the final certified appraisal roll.  The issue arises from provisions in the Texas Education Code, Texas Tax Code, and Texas Election Code, all of which govern school districts’ budget and tax rate adoption and tax ratification elections (TRE).


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Paperwork Reduction Act

Does requiring a teacher to write a report as part of a growth plan violate Texas Education Code section 11.164, which limits the paperwork a teacher can be required to prepare? Ortiz v. Plano Indep. Sch. Dist., Docket No. 014-R10-10-2012 (Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Proposal for Decision, May 10, 2013). LAF’s Attorney: Kelli H. Karczewski, Karczewski | Bradshaw, L.L.P., Nacogdoches.

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Drought Rules

Does the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have the authority to adopt and implement rules relating to “Suspension or Adjustment of Water Rights During Drought or Emergency Water Shortage?” Tex. Comm’n on Envtl. Quality v. Tex. Farm Bureau, No. 13-13-00415-CV (Thirteenth Court of Appeals—Corpus Christi—Edinburg) LAF’s Attorney: Amy M. Emerson, Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C., Austin.

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Attorney-Client Privilege

Does a TEA monitor’s presence in closed board meeting discussions with a school board’s attorney destroy the attorney-client privilege or affect the confidentiality of attorney-client discussions? El Paso Educ. Initiative, Inc. d/b/a Burnham Wood Charter Sch. Dist. v. Tex. Educ. Agency, No. D-1-GN-13-001234 (Travis County District Court). LAF’s Attorney: William C. Bednar, of Counsel, Powell & Leon, LLP, Austin

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Nonrenewal and Use of Physical Force

If a teacher’s use of physical force is one of several reasons for nonrenewal, does the immunity under Texas Education Code section 22.0512 (immunity for use of physical force against a student) protect her from all other reasons for nonrenewal unrelated to her use of force? Black v. Williams & Hart Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 07-13-00192-CV, Seventh Court of Appeals—Amarillo. LAF’s Attorney: Randall J. Cook, Hardy Cook & Hardy, P.C., Tyler.

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Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

Can parents sue a school district under state law for failing to equally and equitably fund different campuses without first exhausting administrative remedies?  Herrera v. Clint Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 08-13-00092-CV (Eighth Court of Appeals—El Paso).  LAF’s Attorney: Carole Callaghan—Carole Callaghan Law, Austin

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Maintenance of Effort

LAF submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) concerning the application of the maintenance of effort (MOE) obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in response to the DOE’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) and its proposed changes to the regulations found in 34 C.F.R. Part 300.  U.S. DOE NPRM for 34 C.F.R. § 300 [Docket ID ED-2012-OSERS-0020] RIN: 1820-AB65 Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities.  LAF’s Attorney: Chris Borreca—Thompson & Horton, LLP, Houston

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Whistleblower

May an educator who is employed under a Chapter 21 term employment contract, who receives proper notice of proposed termination or nonrenewal, refuse to request a hearing, and after the employment termination or nonrenewal occurs file a grievance and subsequent whistleblower lawsuit?  El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kell, No. 08-14-00056-CV (Eighth Court of Appeals—El Paso).  LAF’s Attorney: Ray Viada—Viada & Strayer, The Woodlands

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Drainage Fees

Does the Municipal Drainage Utility Systems Act exempt school districts from paying a municipal drainage fee, or is that decision within the discretion of a city? Is a municipal drainage fee a tax from which school districts are exempt under Texas Tax Code section 11.11?  RQ-1192-GA (Texas Attorney General).  LAF’s Attorney: Thomas E. Myers—Brackett & Ellis, P.C., Fort Worth

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