You can expect that some parents will deliver a lengthy form to the school at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year entitled Notice and Declaration of Parental Rights. It happens every year. It happened in Richardson ISD at the start of the 2021-22 school year, and later became the subject of a decision from the Commissioner.
The parent delivered the NDPR to the principal of an elementary school. If you Google “Notice and Declaration of Parental Rights” you will find a 16-page form promulgated by the Texas Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Antonio. The form includes this:
I hereby exercise my right to remove my child temporarily from any and all class or other school activity that presents, covers or discusses the following topics or activities….
That list of “topics or activities” includes 22 topics with two fill-in-the-blanks added.
The parent alleged that the school violated her parental rights when the teacher showed a Disney movie to the class without parent permission. The movie was “Turning Red” and it was rated PG. The parent took her complaint through the system and was heard by the board. The board acknowledged that the elementary school had a policy requiring parent permission for showing a PG-rated movie. The board reminded the staff of the policy and counseled the teacher, who apologized to the parent for the error. That was not good enough for the parent, who then appealed to the Agency.
T.E.A. dismissed the case in its entirety due to lack of jurisdiction. The Commissioner has jurisdiction to hear cases alleging that a decision by a school board has violated “the school laws” of Texas. That means a petitioner has to cite a specific section from Title I or Title II of the Texas Education Code. The closest the parent came in this case to invoking jurisdiction was in the allegation that the district had violated T.E.C. 26.010, which gives parents the right to have their children removed from classes or activities the parent objects to on religious or moral grounds. The parent argued that the NDPR form put the teacher on notice that films like “Turning Red” should not be shown.
That argument did not work. The Commissioner emphasized that 26.010 requires that parents give written notice of their objections to the teacher. The parent gave the NDPR to the principal. Key Quote:
Because Petitioner admittedly did not provide the NDPR to the student’s teacher, she did not comply with Section 26.010(a)’s requirements and cannot establish a potential board violation of Section 26.010(a).
The other argument was that the NDPR was a “legally binding contract” that the district violated. The Commissioner did not express an opinion about that dubious proposition, but simply noted that even if it was a contract, it wasn’t the type of contract the Commissioner has jurisdiction over. The Commissioner hears appeals over violations of a written employment contract.
The parent was on firm ground in asserting that the teacher violated the elementary school’s policy about showing PG movies, but the Commissioner does not have jurisdiction of a claim that a teacher violated the school’s policy. The petitioner has to tie this into “the school laws” of Texas, and the parent failed to do that. Moreover, the Commissioner noted that the district had acknowledged the error and taken corrective action that included the teacher’s apology.
Some teachers and/or principals are sure to receive the latest version of the NDPR before school starts. It would be a good idea to have a conversation with the parent who produces that form to see if you can get more clarity on exactly what activities the parent wants the child to be exempted from. We need to respect the rights that Chapter 26 of the T.E.C. provides to parents, but this form is what the lawyers would describe as overly broad and hopelessly vague. If I were the teacher presented with the NDPR I’d be fearful of teaching anything beyond simple arithmetic. I think simple arithmetic would be safe. But there may be some who read sexual connotations into terms like “multiplication tables.” So who knows….
It's Parent v. Richardson ISD, Docket No. 002-R10-10-2022, decided by the Commissioner on April 24, 2023.
DAWG BONE: WATCH OUT FOR THE NDPR.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.