What can we learn from a grievance decision?

I took away three lessons from the Commissioner’s decision in Parent v. Center ISD. 

DUPLICATIVE GRIEVANCES.  First, Policy FNG, as most districts have adopted it, does not violate parental rights to pursue grievances.  This came up when the district dismissed the second parent grievance as duplicative of the first. The district relied on this from FNG:

Complaints arising out of an event or a series of related events shall be addressed in one complaint. A student or parent shall not file separate or serial complaints arising from any event or series of events that have been or could have been addressed in a previous complaint.

This all started when the parent filed Grievance One, appealing the student’s assignment to the DAEP.  After Grievance One was denied by the assistant superintendent, and while it was pending before the board, the parent filed Grievance Two.  This one was also based on the DAEP assignment but it took a different tack. This time the parent claimed that some administrators  “perpetuated a lie” about the student in their characterization of the incident.  Both grievances relied on video of the incident that prompted the DAEP assignment.

The district denied Grievance Two on procedural grounds, citing the language from FNG, and concluding that it was “duplicative” and had already been addressed in Grievance One.

The Commissioner affirmed the board’s denial of Grievance Two. In so doing, he held that FNG does not violate parental rights:

Section 26.011 does not require a merits decision on Grievance 2 but requires boards to have policies that address parent complaints under Chapter 26. Respondent has such a policy. 

GRIEVANCES SEEKING TO REPRIMAND EMPLOYEES.  There was another problem with Grievance Two.  The remedy the parent sought was some form of disciplinary action against the administrators who dealt with the original disciplinary action.  The Commissioner addressed this in a footnote:

Petitioner is not entitled to require board discipline of school district employees.  Complaints that educators have violated ethical standards can be submitted to the Texas Education Agency, which investigates such complaints. 

MERITS v. PROCEDURAL DECISION. Fundamental to the Commissioner’s decision in this case was the idea that the district can dismiss a grievance on procedural grounds without ever addressing the merits of it. That’s what happened with Grievance Two. The district made no decision about the accusations against the administrators, but simply denied the grievance because it was based on the same series of events and the same evidence (the video) as Grievance One.  Districts sometimes do this on the basis of timeliness as well. Decisions along those lines are permissible when supported by substantial evidence in the record.

It's Parent v. Center ISD, decided by Commissioner Morath on February 6, 2023, Docket No. 047-R10-07-2022.   I’m pleased to let you know that Christine Badillo from our firm’s Austin office represented the district on this one.


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

Tomorrow:  the importance of teacher testimony….