Certified mail does not always get the job done.

The board of trustees in Alief ISD denied the parent’s grievance, and the administration sent notice of this to the parent by certified mail, return receipt requested.  The letter was mailed on June 29, 2018.  The parent never picked it up.  The parent later contacted the school to inquire about the board’s decision. The following day, (August 8, 2018) the parent received a copy of the decision.

Quiz: the parent has 45 days to appeal to T.E.A.  When do those 45 days begin? 

A. June 29: the date the certified mail was mailed.
B. On the date the certified mail was delivered to the parent’s address.
C. August 8: the date the parent received the board’s decision.

The Commissioner ruled that the answer is C.  The decision illustrates the risks of relying exclusively on certified mail.  Key Quotes:

Notice served by certified mail and returned “unclaimed” does not provide the required notice.

While the Commissioner has found that the refusal to accept certified mail constitutes constructive service, the Commissioner has also noted the distinction between refusing notice and neglecting to pick up one’s mail.   

So there seem to be three kinds of certified mail: 1) those that are picked up; 2) those that are refused; and 3) those that are neglected.  In this case, it looked like neglect.  Therefore the timeline did not start when the school thought it started. The parent’s Petition for Review was filed in a timely fashion, within 45 days after August 8th which was the date the parent actually got the decision. 

This reminded me of my early days as a lawyer.  The firm I worked for represented some small businesses and we did some collection work for them. This would begin with a “nastygram” from me, demanding payment within the next two weeks, and threatening legal action if payment was not received. I remember that my standard letter included this:

This letter is being sent by certified as well as regular mail to ensure its receipt by you. 

We sorta figured that the people we were writing to might not pick up the certified mail.

In the Alief case, the parent persuaded the Commissioner that the Petition was filed on time. But there was another problem. We’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

The case of Parent v. Alief ISD was decided by the Commissioner on January 24, 2019.  It’s Docket No. 002-R10-09-2018. 


Tomorrow: You can get your case heard by the Commissioner if you allege a violation of “the school laws” of Texas….but only some of the “school laws” of Texas.