District leaders must abide by the rules for duty-free lunch entitlements for teachers, including allowing them to leave campus.
According to Attorney General opinion JM-481 (1986), a district may not require a teacher to remain on campus during their duty-free lunch break.
Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.405(a) entitles teachers and librarians to at least a 30-minute lunch period free from all duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction and supervision of students. While a school district may require a classroom teacher or librarian to supervise students during lunch due to a personnel shortage, extreme economic conditions, or an unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance, the assignment must be limited to one day in any school week.
Title 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §153.1001 provides the following guidelines to determine what constitutes a personnel shortage, extreme economic conditions, or an unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance.
- A personnel shortage exists when, despite reasonable efforts of a school district to use nonteaching personnel or the assistance of community volunteers to supervise students during lunch, there are no other personnel available.
- Extreme economic conditions exist when the percentage of a local tax increase, including any amounts necessary to implement this section, would place the district in jeopardy with respect to a potential tax roll-back election as provided in the Texas Property Tax Code, §26.08.
- Unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances exist when, due to illness, epidemic, or natural or man-made disaster, a school district is unable to find an individual to supervise students during lunch.
Additional information regarding regulatory requirements can be found in the HRX article Duty-free Lunch Entitlement.
Keith McLemore joined HR Services in 2015 and assists districts with compensation planning and development. He has 17 years of experience traveling the state supporting public education employees.
McLemore received a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and a master’s degree from Texas Tech University, both with a focus on research analysis and design. He is a SHRM-CP.
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