“The board’s decision is final and may not be appealed.” Does that mean what it says?

Zooming with the Dawg at 10:00 this morning!  We’ll be reviewing the newly revised social studies bill.  Open and free to all Daily Dawg Subscribers!! Be there!

It’s supposed to be pretty simple to end the school’s relationship with a probationary teacher at the end of its scheduled term.  The board just has to determine that doing this will serve the “best interests of the district” and make sure that notice of the termination is timely delivered.  The statute concludes with “The board’s decision is final and may not be appealed.”  T.E.C. 21.103(a).

Yes, it does mean what it says, if you understand that it refers to appeals to T.E.A.  That’s why the petition of the teacher from Austin ISD was dismissed. The Commissioner noted that he did not have jurisdiction to hear this case. The board made its decision and that’s final.  The teacher alleged sundry violations of law by the district, but the Commissioner repeatedly focused on the fact that this was a complaint about the termination of a probationary contract at the end of its scheduled term. That’s not appealable…at least, not to T.E.A.

Like all such “final” rules written in the law, there are exceptions.  For example, this teacher alleged that the district discriminated against her based on disability in violation of the ADA.  That might be a valid claim, but it shouldn’t go to the Commissioner of Education.  The Commissioner does not have jurisdiction of federal laws, only the school laws of Texas. The same would be true of any allegations of discrimination based on race, sex, or religion.  Those complaints should start out at the EEOC or Texas Workforce Commission—not the Texas Education Agency.

So it really is pretty simple to end the relationship at the end of its scheduled term, as long as the district sticks to the mantra: “We make all personnel decisions based on job-related, nondiscriminatory, non-retaliatory factors.” 

It’s Baron v. Austin ISD, decided by the Commissioner on June 7, 2021.  Docket No. 010-R10-11-2020.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com