How many pages of legal stuff do you have to look at before you file a complaint with T.E.A.?

The petitioner in Davis v. Prosper ISD was frustrated. The Commissioner informed her that her complaint failed to allege a violation of the “school laws of this state.”  Ms. Davis responded: “Petitioner should not be forced to spend hours upon hours poring over tens of thousands of pages of the Texas Education Code trying to try to find a section to wedge her complaint into before the TEA will hear it.” 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration.  Under Section 7.057(a)(2) of the T.E.C. the Commissioner can hear an appeal that alleges that actions of the school board have violated “the school laws of this state.” That means Titles I and II of the Texas Education Code.  Are there “tens of thousands of pages” of such laws?  No. 

The Dawg checked this out by reviewing the Texas School Law Bulletin for 2022.  Title I of the Code begins on Page 1: Section 1.001, Applicability.  Title II ends on page 812, Section 49.357: Application of Small and Sparse Adjustments and Transportation Allotment. 

So the “school laws of Texas” cover 812 pages—not “tens of thousands.”

In the process of dismissing this case for lack of jurisdiction the Commissioner reminds of three things. 

  1.  The Commissioner does not have jurisdiction to hear complaints about individuals.  Ms. Davis brought her appeal to T.E.A. against the superintendent, all seven members of the board, and the district’s inhouse general counsel.  The Commissioner dismissed the complaint against all nine of them, noting that he simply does not have the authority to hear complaints about individuals. He has authority to hear complaints about actions of the board as a governmental body.
  2. Complaints about Section 504, the U.S. Constitution, and allegations that the board violated its own policies or operating procedures need to go elsewhere. The Commissioner does not have jurisdiction. 
  3. Parties who seek changes in school policy are wasting their time taking that complaint to T.E.A. through a grievance.  That’s not something the Commissioner has the power to order.  

It’s Davis v. Prosper ISD, decided by Commissioner Morath on May 13, 2022. It’s Docket No. 014-R10-12-2021.  I’m pleased to let you know that Meredith Walker of our firm’s Irving office handled this case. 


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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!