Fairfield ISD banned Ms. Walker-Nelms from district property for one year due to “an altercation on district property.” Ms. Walker-Nelms promptly filed a grievance over this, but after it was denied by the superintendent, she was not as prompt in filing for an appeal to the board.
District policy GF(Local) required that the appeal be filed within ten business day, and that it be done on the district’s form. The superintendent reminded the grievant of this timeline twice. The deadline for filing for an appeal was June 14, 2021. The grievant filed her appeal on July 23rd, more than a month late. On that basis, the board denied her grievance and the Commissioner affirmed that decision.
This sounds like a pretty routine matter. It’s well established that districts can enforce their timelines by denying grievances that are filed too late. But there is one aspect of this case that superintendents should think about. Since this involved barring a person from being on campus it implicated T.E.C. 37.105. That statute requires some special notices and procedures when dealing with unruly people on campus. You might want to think about opting out of that statute through your District of Innovation Plan. That’s what Northwest ISD did in an earlier case and the Commissioner ruled that this was perfectly permissible. Key Quote:
The DOI specifically exempts Respondent from section 37.105 and provides, alternatively, that “[Respondent] would allow designated staff members the authority to remove parents or visitors whose behavior is deemed inappropriate without warning or written notice.” Petitioner complains that Respondent’s trespass notice to him violated section 37.105 but does not dispute that Respondent is a District of Innovation exempt from section 37.105. Because under its DOI plan, Respondent is exempt from section 37.105, Petitioner has not stated a potential violation by Respondent of section 37.105 for which he would be entitled to relief. In addition, the Commissioner lacks jurisdiction over an alleged violation of a school law of this state from which a DOI is exempt. Accordingly, this claim should be dismissed.
That’s Parent v. Northwest ISD which we reported in the Daily Dawg on October 27, 2021. This one is Walker-Nelms v. Fairfield ISD, decided by the Commissioner on April 26, 2022. It’s Docket No. 004-R10-09-2021. I’m pleased to let you know that Haley Turner and David Holmes from our firm represented the district on this one.
DAWG BONE: DOIs CAN MAKE LIFE SIMPLER.
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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!