Have you ever issued a “no-trespass” letter to a parent?

“Petitioner and Respondent have, to put it mildly, a rocky relationship.”  That’s Commissioner Morath’s characterization of the situation that exists between Killeen ISD and a parent.  The school district has issued letters to this parent since 2012, directing her to follow certain “protocols” when on district property.  The Commissioner characterized these as “no-trespass” letters.

The parent filed an appeal to T.E.A. but it wasn’t specifically about the “no-trespass” letters.  Instead, the parent alleged that a district employee defended the district’s decisions and in doing so made a false statement about the parent.

The Commissioner’s decision does not tell us what the statement was or who made it. Nor does the decision tell us whether the statement is true or false.  But it does tell us two things that are worth noting.

First, the Commissioner of Education in Texas “lacks jurisdiction over violations of federal law.” The parent asserted that the false statement violated a federal law.  The Commissioner noted that he lacks the power to address such an issue.

Second, allegations that a certified employee has violated the Code of Ethics should go to SBEC—not the Commissioner.  Again, this is a matter of jurisdiction.

Thus the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, without any discussion of the legality or propriety of a “no-trespass” letter.

The lawyers in our firm have helped many school districts in situations like this.  The starting point is that school officials have the responsibility--and the duty--to maintain certain standards for all visitors to district property.  You can’t tolerate criminal behavior, threats of violence, or anything  that substantially disrupts school activities.  If you believe that a particular parent needs to be warned about such things, a written notice might be appropriate.  But we always recommend legal counsel in a situation like that.  Whenever you single out a particular parent for negative attention, you are likely to be accused of retaliation, discrimination of some sort and/or infringement on parent rights.

Slow down.  Talk to your lawyer. Craft your letter carefully.  We can help you with this sort of thing.

The case is Davis v. Killeen ISD, Docket No. 021-R10-03-2016, decided by Commissioner Morath on November 21, 2016.


 File this one under: GOVERNANCE