Does the school’s lawyer speak for the board?

Monday we told you about the case from Grand Prairie where the Commissioner ordered the school board to give a grievant a hearing.  The district thought the matter was moot, but the Commissioner disagreed.  That was Monday’s discussion. Today—one other aspect.  The school district also argued that the grievant’s appeal to T.E.A. was untimely.  That argument also failed.

A complaining party has 45 calendar days in which to file a Petition for Review with T.E.A.  That 45-day timeframe begins to run “after the decision, order, or ruling complained of is first communicated to the Petitioner.”  In this case the argument was over when the “decision, order, or ruling” was communicated. 

On December 17, 2019, the school district’s lawyer sent a letter to the employee’s lawyer explaining that the board was not going to schedule a hearing because the matter was moot.  The district argued that this letter started the 45-day timeframe, and the employee filed her Petition too late.

Nope. The Commissioner reasoned that a letter from a lawyer is not the same thing as a “decision, order, or ruling” from the board.  Key Quotes:

Petitioner’s appeal is not untimely because a letter from district counsel is not an action or decision by the Board that triggers the timeline to file a Petition for Review. 

A letter from counsel does not substitute for a board decision, order, or ruling. The Board may not delegate its decision-making authority.

So apparently the 45-day timeline has still not even begun. The appeal was, therefore, timely.  A good lesson for the lawyers.  The case is DeLaGarza v. Grand Prairie ISD, Docket No. 032-R10-02-2020, decided by Commissioner Morath on July 24, 2020.


Tomorrow: The other part of the Barbers Hill decision