Complaints about the sex ed curriculum….

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating the law.  As Commissioner Morath notes in a recent decision, there is a “legal fiction” that all citizens know about every law that Congress or the state legislature enacts.  If you violate the law, the fact that you did not know that you were doing so is no excuse. But while everyone is charged with knowing what laws have been enacted, they are not responsible for knowing everything that the local school board has done.

How was this relevant in a case where the parent was complaining of the school’s sex ed curriculum?  It came up because the school administration argued that the complaint was untimely.  After all, the board adopted the sex ed curriculum more than three years before the complaint was filed. The local policy, FNG(Local) required that complaints be filed within 10 days of when the complaining party knew or should have known of the matter complained about.  So at all levels of the grievance, all the way to the school board, the complaint was dismissed as untimely. 

The Commissioner reversed that, noting that the complainant did not know what happened at the board meeting three years ago.  Nor would he be responsible for the “legal fiction” of knowing what happened.  So he did not have knowledge of the sex ed curriculum until December 5, 2019 when he watched a video of a talk about the district’s sex education curriculum. He wasted no time after watching the video, filing the FNG complaint that very day.  The district contended he was untimely because he should have known what the school board did way back in 2016 when the curriculum was discussed and approved. Nope.

This case is noteworthy for two other reasons. First, the local policy said that “no new evidence” could be admitted at Level IV—the board level.  This is a common feature of local policy, but the  administration argued that this only applied to the complaining party, not the administration. The Commissioner rejected that idea, noting that “The school board does get to interpret its policies, it does not get to rewrite its policies through interpretation.”

Second, this is a harbinger of things to come.  The complaint was that the district was not in compliance with Texas Education Code 28.004 which spells out the requirements for School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) and the specifics of education about sexuality.  This decision does not address any of the substantive complaints about the district’s compliance with the law. The district denied the complaint based on timeliness, and so the only issue before the Commissioner was timeliness.  But you can expect a lot more complaints focusing on TEC 28.004. HB 1525 amended it this year with a major emphasis on transparency and parental involvement.

It’s Parent v. North East ISD, Docket No. 006-R10-10-2020, decided on July 7, 2021. 


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Tomorrow: terminating a probationary contract…