We’re hearing a lot about parents’ rights in the legislative session this year and we’re certain to see some changes in our Education Code designed to bolster those rights. I think it unlikely, however, that the new laws will prohibit schools from restricting “any parent from access to their child or any programs in which the child is involved, for any reason at any time.” That kind of sweeping statement fails to recognize some important factors. Such as the fact that some parents are also registered sex offenders.
This issue came before the Commissioner after a parent/registered offender was asked to leave the awards ceremony. The parent alleged that the school’s decision violated three sections of the Texas Education Code, and one section of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
T.E.C. 1.002. Section 1.002 calls for “Equal Educational Services or Opportunities” but the Commissioner tells us that this “does not mean that because one parent can attend a school event, all parents can attend the school event.” The Commissioner offered an example: “a parent volunteer may attend the dress rehearsal for a school play because the parent is skilled in scenery changes and has volunteered.” The law only requires that “individuals in similar circumstances be treated equally.”
T.E.C. 4.001. This one is a “broad and aspirational” statement of “Public Education Mission and Objectives.” The Commissioner says “It does not create enforceable standards.”
T.E.C. 26.001. This is the opening section of the Parent Rights chapter in the Code and it offers a vision of parents as “partners with educators…in their children’s education.” Parents are to be “encouraged to actively participate” with the school. How about that one?
Nope. Citing a 5th Circuit case, the Commissioner noted: “that parents are partners does not mean parents must be given complete access to their child.”
C.C.P. 62.065. The parent in this case also cited the provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure (62.065) that directly addresses the duties of sex offenders in connection with their child’s education. That section requires that the person report their presence and their status to the school administrative office whenever they “enter the premises” of the school during standard operating hours. The law then says that the school “may provide a chaperone to accompany the person” while on school grounds.
Does that mean that schools must allow a registered sex offender to attend a school event, as long as there is a chaperone? No. The Commissioner reads the statute as permitting attendance with a chaperone, but the law “does not create a parental right to attend school events with a chaperone.”
It’s Parents v. Alvarado ISD, decided by the Commissioner on February 16, 2023. It’s Docket No. 056-R10-08-2022, and I’m pleased to let you know that Laura Rodriguez McLean in our firm’s Irving office represented the district on this one.
DAWG BONE: PARENT RIGHTS WILL PROBABLY BROADEN, BUT NOT THIS FAR.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.