We can learn four lessons from a nonrenewal decision issued by former Commissioner Williams.
First, the lawyers had better be ready to jump up and shout “OBJECTION! HEARSAY!!” The decision tells us that evidence that could be excluded as “hearsay” is admissible, and can be relied on by the board if it was not objected to at the time it is offered into evidence.
Second, Texas administrative hearings (like nonrenewal hearings before the board) can rely on “liberal” exceptions to the usual hearsay rules. In this case, this meant that a video statement from a student about a teacher’s wrongdoing was admitted into evidence, even though the teacher’s lawyer never had a chance to cross-examine the student. The late, great Joe Jamail would have gone nutso over this. The Commissioner relies on the “liberal” exceptions to the hearsay rule that can be used in administrative hearings. The student had “disappeared” according to the Commissioner. She could not be found by the district or the police. If the student had been located, this case may have been decided differently. But since no one could find the kid, the Commissioner held that it was OK to admit into evidence a very damning video statement given by the student that the teacher’s lawyer never had a chance to confront.
Third, teachers facing nonrenewal have the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses, but in the special circumstances of this case, the student on video was not a “witness.” So the fact that the teacher’s lawyer never got to question her was no big deal.
Fourth, it’s not always going to be a due process violation for two lawyers from the same firm to be involved in the nonrenewal hearing—one for the administration and one for the board. The Commissioner treats this as a hypothetical issue since teachers facing contract nonrenewal are not entitled to “due process” in the first place, there being no “property interest” at stake.
The case is Manuagwu v. Edgewood ISD, Docket No. 003-R1-09-2015, decided by the Commissioner on November 4, 2015.
DAWG BONE: TEXAS MAY NOT BE “LIBERAL” ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO HEARSAY WE ARE A MATCH FOR BERNIE SANDERS.