An understanding of nepotism rules and local provisions is necessary to ensure relatives of board members and in some cases the superintendent, are excluded from employment.
School district and other public officials who have the power to appoint or employ relatives are subject to Texas nepotism rules. Texas Government Code prohibits an individual who is related to a “public official” by blood (consanguinity) within the third degree or by marriage (affinity) within the second degree from employment (Tex Gov’t Code §573.002 and §573.041). For nepotism purposes, a public official of a school district means a member of the school board or an officer of the school district. These restrictions apply when hiring contract and noncontract employees.
Charts illustrating which relatives are affected by the nepotism rules are included in the HR Library topic Employment laws and in Policy Exhibit DBE (member login required).
Depending on the county population and the district’s delegation of hiring authority the term public official could include school board trustees, the superintendent, and sometimes both. To the extent a board delegates final hiring authority to the superintendent for certain positions, the superintendent is also a public official for nepotism purposes. For school districts located in counties with a population of fewer than 35,000, the board is not subject to the nepotism laws for positions where final hiring authority has been delegated to the superintendent.
As outlined in the previous HRX article, HR and Policy: Contract Administration, the delegation of hiring authority to the superintendent is usually addressed in Policy DC(LOCAL). Delegation to hire contract employees at specific times of the year may also be authorized by board action and documented in board minutes or by resolution.
Employment of a public official’s relative is allowed in the following circumstances:
- As a substitute teacher
- As a bus driver if the district is located wholly in, or whose largest part is located in, a county with a population of less than 35,000 according to the most recent federal census.
- Continuous employment if the individual was employed in the position before the election or appointment of the related public official. Prior employment must be continuous for at least 30 days, if the public official is appointed; or six months if the public official is elected (Tex. Gov’t Code §573.062(a)).
- If a board member’s relative works for the district under the continuous employment exception, the official who is related to the employee shall not participate in any deliberation or vote on the appointment, reappointment, employment, reemployment, change in status, compensation, or dismissal of the employee, if the action applies only to the employee and is not action taken regarding a bona fide class or category of employee (Tex. Gov’t Code §573.062(b)).
Districts may impose additional restrictions on the hiring or supervision of relatives. If adopted, these provisions are typically outlined in Policy DK(LOCAL). Local policy may identify positions subject to the restrictions, the definition of relative, exceptions, and other details. Districts wishing to add local restrictions should contact their policy consultant for assistance and sample language.
Most districts require applicants to disclose whether they have a relative who is a board member or an employee of the district, the relative’s name, and relationship. This preemployment inquiry will help determine whether the nepotism restrictions apply.
Additional information on nepotism rules, including whether a relative can be hired if a trustee resigns and the consequence for violating the nepotism prohibition is available in the TASB School Law eSource FAQ, Conflicts of Interest: Nepotism.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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