Parents win one in “Bannergate” in United ISD

Commissioner Morath has ruled that United ISD should have given a group of parents a hearing before the school board about the removal of a banner from the middle school gym.  The parents allege that the banner was removed as an act of retaliation, designed to punish these parents for pursuing complaints of bullying.

Removal of a banner?  Yes—that’s what this was about.  The banner honored the school’s Dance Team which took home national honors in 2014-15.  The banner, which included the photograph of the parents’ child, was replaced with the picture of another team that was less successful.  The parental complaint about this has made it to T.E.A.

The Commissioner expressed no opinion about whether the banner should stay or go.  Nor did he tell us if the district had acted with a retaliatory motive.  All he said was that the board should have heard the matter.

The board refused to hear the complaint, delegating it instead to a committee that was created to hear complaints pertaining to extracurricular activities.  After all, the Texas Education Code now includes this provision:

The board of trustees of a school district is not required….to address a complaint that the board receives concerning a student’s participation in an extracurricular activity that does not involve a violation of a right guaranteed by this chapter [Chapter 26—Parent Rights and Responsibilities]. Texas Education Code 26.011(b).

The first part of that statute seems designed to keep routine gripes about playing time (“you shoulda played my kid at left cornerback!”) or cheerleading (“my girl should be head cheerleader!”) away from the school board. But the last part of the statute guarantees that parents will get a board hearing if they are complaining of denial of their own rights under Chapter 26.  In this case, the Commissioner ruled that the complaint was not about “a student’s participation in an extracurricular activity.” It was about “violation of a right guaranteed” by Chapter 26.   So the board should have heard it.

The Commissioner sent the case back to United ISD for a full hearing on the merits. Bannergate continues, and eventually, perhaps we will find out why the banner was replaced.  Other parental complaints were dismissed. The Commissioner ruled that the folks in United did not act in bad faith; the complaint of unethical action by the principal should have gone to SBEC, and thus, was dismissed; the request for the discharge of the principal and cheerleader sponsor was dismissed.

The case of Parents v. United ISD was decided by the Commissioner on December 15, 2018.  It’s Docket No. 035-R10-03-2018.


Have a good weekend, Readers. We’ll be back on Monday!