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General Inquiry - School District FAQ

This section answers questions regarding School District issues, dress code, immunizations, absentee policy, drug searches and more.

  1. What are the policies for a student being absent for several days for educational purposes, but not a school function?
      
  2. Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
      
  3. Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
      
  4. What authority do school districts have to enact a dress code?
      
  5. What are the legal requirements regarding hiring procedures, such as posting a position?
  6. How long are elementary schools given to organize kindergarten through grade 4 classes to make sure they don't exceed the 22:1 ratio?
  7. What is the TEA policy on random drug searches?
  8. Where can one find information on the types of physical contact a teacher/coach can have with a student, i.e. poking a child in the chest?
  9. What options does a school district have in dealing with parents who do not have their children immunized, especially with the new Varicella and Hepatitis B immunizations?
  10. What laws, policies or guidelines must a school district follow in determining which school in its district a child should attend?
  11. Can a school district hire a permanent substitute instead of a certified teacher who applied for the same position?
  12. Is there a method of redress in the event a district does not comply with TEA Rules?
  13. Can a school district hire someone for a teaching position who does not have a teacher certification?

1.  What are the policies for a student being absent for several days for educational purposes, but not a school function?
Except for religious observances and doctor's appointments, whether to excuse an absence or not is up to the school district. For more information, read Section 25.087, Texas Education Code.

2 Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
Persuant to TEC Section 22.082, criminal background checks are made by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) as part of the certification process. As to whether criminal history records are checked on a repeated basis after a teacher becomes certified, you should contact SBEC. Pursuant to TEC Section 22.083, a school district, private school, regional education service center, or open-enrollment charter school may have access to the criminal history records of all employees, volunteers, applicants for employment, or persons who intend to serve as volunteers. While a school district, private school, or service center may do background checks on employees and volunteers, they are not required to do so (with the exception of bus drivers, as discussed below). However, an open-enrollment charter school is required to obtain criminal history records for any person prior to employment or service as a volunteer. [top]

There are additional rules that apply to bus drivers, bus monitors, and bus aides. Pursuant to TEC Section 22.084, a school district, private school, service center, or open-enrollment charter school must obtain criminal history records for all bus drivers and bus driver applicants. Section 22.084 also allows a commercial transportation company to obtain the criminal history records for all bus drivers, bus monitors, and bus aides that may be employed to work on a school bus.  [top]

3Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
Not quite. Prior to 1995, school districts were required to adopt a policy prohibiting any "paging device". In 1995, that was amended to allow, but not require school districts to adopt such a policy. More information can be found in Section 37.082, Texas Education Code.  [top]

4.
What authority do school districts have to enact a dress code?
School districts have the authority to adopt dress codes which may apply differently on a gender basis. For example, in the 1980s, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on a males-only earring policy in the Barber case, finding that the provision did not violate the Texas Equal Rights Amendment.

A dress code may not be too vague to give fair notice of what is prohibited and may not infringe on religious expression. Texas courts have allowed some Native American students to wear long hair as a religious expression, as well as religious head coverings by Jewish and Muslim students.  [top]

5. What are the legal requirements regarding hiring procedures, such as posting a position?
The Texas Education Code (TEC) does not contain a provision requiring that a vacancy be advertised or posted. Hiring procedures, including vacancy posting and applicant screening, are governed by local policy.

School districts must comply with state and federal laws that require employers to have nondiscriminatory hiring practices. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees based on race, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability. The equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws are administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the federal level. Information about the EEO laws and how to file a complaint can be found at the EEOC web site.

Although the Texas Education Code does not prescribe hiring procedures, it does address the authority of superintendents to make recommendations regarding the selection of personnel, in Sections 11.201 and 11.163, and the approval authority of principals in Section 11.202.  [top]

6. How long are elementary schools given to organize kindergarten through grade 4 classes to make sure they don't exceed the 22:1 ratio?
For the 2001-2002 school year, a school district is required to complete a class size survey by September 7, 2001. If class size is in excess of 22:1 at that time, the district must apply for a waiver from the 22:1 requirement by October 9, 2001. More information about class size waivers may be obtained by contacting the Waivers unit at TEA. You may access the 22:1 statute by reading Section 25.112 of the Texas Education Code. 

Certification matters are under the jurisdiction of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). The rules governing certification requirements can be found in 19 TAC 230 of the Texas Administrative Code, and the rules governing assignment of public school personnel can be found in 19 TAC 230.601. For more information about the certification and permit rules, contact the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). 

Under a very narrow set of circumstances, a school district may issue a "school district teaching permit" persuant to Section 21.055. Although all other certification matters are handled by SBEC, the school district teaching permit is coordinated through the Texas Education Agency (TEA). More information can be obtained through the above links or by calling TEA's contact person for school district teaching permits at 1-512-475-2160.  [top]

7. What is the TEA policy on random drug searches?
There are not any state regulations on school district searches. School districts are authorized to enact policies for safety and security under Chapters 37 and 38 of the Texas Education Code. The agency cannot resolve the factual issues concerning a particular district action or program, but school districts generally have authority to conduct searches under certain circumstances.  [top]

8. Where can one find information on the types of physical contact a teacher/coach can have with a student, i.e. poking a child in the chest?

There are not any state regulations of teacher conduct with students, other than general ethical standards for educators administered by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), the licensing (certifying) body for teachers and other educators. Teachers are, of course, subject to general criminal statutes for assault or child abuse, which would be enforced, if necessary, by local criminal authorities. Each district will usually have rules governing acceptable employee conduct. Complaints about employees can be reviewed up the chain of command to the school board.   [top]

9. What options does a school district have in dealing with parents who do not have their children immunized, especially with the new Varicella and Hepatitis B immunizations?
Admission to a school is not allowed until records are produced showing that (1) the child has been immunized in accordance with state immunization rules; (2) the child has an exemption from immunization in accordance with state immunization rules; or (3) the child is entitled to provisional enrollment. Provisional enrollment applies to (1) students transferring from one Texas public or private school to another; (2) students who are homeless according to the federal McKinney-Vento Act; or (3) students who have begun required immunizations and are receiving them as quickly as medically feasible. For more information about immunization requirements go to: www.ImmunizeTexas.com or contact the Immunization Division Customer Service team at (512) 458-7284 or (800) 252-9152.  [top]

10. What laws, policies or guidelines must a school district follow in determining which school in its district a child should attend?
Section 25.031, Texas Education Code, empowers the school board to "assign and transfer any student from one school facility or classroom to another within its jurisdiction". The locally elected board makes that call, with a few exceptions in districts that continue to be covered by a federal desegregation order. A parent can petition for a transfer under Section 25.033, but the final decision rests with the board.  [top]

11. Can a school district hire a permanent substitute instead of a certified teacher who applied for the same position?
Pursuant to Section 21.003 of the Texas Education Code, school districts must follow the state certification rules when hiring teachers and other professional personnel. The rules governing certification requirements can be found in 19 TAC 230 of the Texas Administrative Code, and the rules governing assignment of public school personnel can be found in 19 TAC 230.601. If a person who is uncertified or serving under an emergency certificate is assigned to the same classroom for more than 30 days, the superintendent must provide written notice of the assignment to parents of students in the classroom per Section 21.057, Texas Education Code. For more information contact the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).  [top]

12. Is there a method of redress in the event a district does not comply with TEA Rules?

If a district is failing to comply with a rule adopted by the Commissioner of Education or by the State Board of Education, the first step is to follow the school district's grievance procedure until the matter is either resolved or a decision is made by the local board of trustees. If the local school board makes a decision that is alleged to violate a rule, the board's decision may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education under Section 7.057 of the Texas Education Code.  [top]

13. Can a school district hire someone for a teaching position who does not have a teacher certification?
Under Section 21.003 of the Texas Education Code, a person may not be employed as a teacher, teacher intern or trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator or counselor unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit. A school district may employ a teacher under an emergency permit if they have been unable to secure a certified and qualified person for the position. To activate a permit, the district must follow the procedures set forth in 19 TAC Section 230.501 - 230.512 (subchapter Q). If a person who is serving under an emergency permit is assigned to the same classroom for more than 30 days, the superintendent must provide written notice of the assignment to parents of the students in the classroom (Section 21.057).  [top]


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