Articles tagged with Texas

School boards urge federal appeals court to follow precedent regarding harassment cases

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to follow standards—carefully developed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings—for determining a school district’s liability in cases of harassment.

NSBA and TASB filed an amicus brief in Lance v. Lewisville Independent Sch. Dist. that maintains school districts should not be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of disability, in instances where school officials tried but were unsuccessful in completely stopping the harassment.

The amicus brief asks the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that follow long-established standards to hold a district liable under federal anti-discrimination laws.  Those cases hold schools liable only where school officials with appropriate authority deliberately refuse to take action to respond to known actions of harassment. NSBA and TASB caution the court against using the informal guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) in an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter as the legal standard to impose monetary damages in such cases.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is advocating for an expansive standard of liability that would hold schools responsible in virtually all cases where harassment was not completely eliminated despite the district’s efforts to protect students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “That is not what the law intends, and it would be an unprecedented change from previous Supreme Court rulings.”

The lawsuit was brought by parents of a student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, who committed suicide at school when he was in fourth grade. Although the school had provided a full psychological evaluation and responded to complaints of harassment, the parents sued the school district on allegations that the school district’s failure to do enough to stop the continuing harassment of their son. Recognizing longstanding precedent, the lower court ruled that the parents could not demonstrate that any district employee had intentionally discriminated against the student solely on the basis of his disability.

“While this case stemmed from a tragic situation, courts should refrain from adopting OCR’s ‘national standard’ and continue to defer to the judgment of educators who are knowledgeable about their communities, work closely with students in their schools, are aware of community resources, and understand the educational and emotional needs of the children entrusted to their care,” said TASB Executive Director James B. Crow.

Read more insights on NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|August 7th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees receives national award for outstanding school board support of the arts

Today, Texas’s Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees received the 25th annual Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN) and National School Boards Association (NSBA) Award. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was presented at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Annual Conference in San Diego. Since 1989, this prestigious national award has recognized school boards for their support of arts education.

The Austin district was chosen from nominees around the country for its outstanding support of high-quality arts education. Finalists for the award include: Florida’s School Board of Hillsborough County; Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education; Minnesota’s Minnetonka Public Schools Board of Education; and Virginia’s Roanoke City Public Schools School Board.

“Austin is a well-known as a community rich in the arts,” said Darrell Ayers, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center. “We are pleased to recognize a school board and administration that extends that culture to the classroom and provides students with a comprehensive arts education.”

The award honors the work of the 2012 school board in Austin led by President Mark Williams, Vice President Vince Torres, Secretary Lori Moya, Cheryl Bradley, Sam Guzman, Christine Brister, Robert Schneider, Annette LoVoi, and Tamala Barksdale. The school board distinguished itself as a national leader in arts education through thoughtful policy, wise funding decisions and data-driven strategic planning. For example, the district’s strategic plan moved the arts from an enrichment discipline to a core academic subject, establishing its goal and measurable benchmarks to increase access and support for high quality fine arts instruction as part of a strong core academic curriculum for all students. Despite a series of significant budget cuts, the board maintained support of the fine arts staffing during two reductions that cut more than 1,500 staff positions.

The school district supported the Any Given Child process to determine inequities that might exist in the district and make recommendations to remediate them. The district has advanced a programmatic plan to make all schools arts-rich schools by 2023, with an associated bond package to provide appropriate infrastructure support. Actions like these send a clear message that learning in the arts in Austin is not an enrichment activity, but central to the cognitive and social development of young people. The Austin Board of Trustees says it plans to use the award to support professional development opportunities for Austin school district teachers. Investing in staff will provide assurances the district can sustain the benefits of the arts and creative learning.

“NSBA is proud to recognize outstanding arts programs that greatly benefit student learning,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These programs are achieved only with the full support of the school board and administration.”

Each year, a national review panel selects the first place school district from a pool of nominees selected by State Alliances for Arts Education and state school boards associations. School districts selected for this national honor must demonstrate support for all four core disciplines in arts education programs: visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Instruction and programming must be available for all students throughout the district. The ways in which the school district develops collaborative partnerships with the cultural resources available in the community are also an important consideration in reviewing nominations.

Alexis Rice|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Arts Education, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , , |

NSBA backs University of Texas in diversity case

The National School Boards Association, the College Board, and 11 other national educational groups today filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court strongly supporting the University of Texas’ use of race as one of multiple factors in admission decisions.

In January, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously for the defendants in Fisher v. University of Texas. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case in February, thereby signaling its willingness to revisit diversity law. Legal experts say that a high court reversal of the earlier decision would represent a profound change in affirmative action law and a serious setback to school districts and universities seeking to diversity their programs.

“I think it’s ominous,” Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, told the New York Times earlier this year. “It threatens to undo several decades of effort within higher education to build a more integrated and just and educationally enriched environment.”

The case is being closely watched by public school leaders as well. Among those groups joining NSBA in today’s brief are the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund.

“The National School Boards Association is committed to the principle that diversity promotes the educational achievement of all students,” NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said today. “Preserving the ability to develop sound, academically driven diversity policies is in the best interests of all students in our public schools and beyond.”

Bollinger was president of the University of Michigan in 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Grutter v. Bollinger that the university’s use of race was constitutional as long as it was part of a “holistic” assessment of candidates that included other factors. It was that decision that has guided the University of Texas and many other educational institutions as they try to diversity their academic programs and prepare a workforce for the 21st century.

Under a 2004 state law, all Texas high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their classes are automatically admitted to the Texas state university of their choice — a requirement that accounted for 81 percent of the 2008 freshman class at the University of Texas, according to a recent College Board report. (The university limits out-of-state residents to 10 percent of the freshman class.)

The remaining in-state candidates are then evaluated on both academic and personal achievement indexes. Among the personal achievement indexes – which include socioeconomic status, and family status and responsibilities – is race. “No element of the personal achievement score is considered separately or given a separate numerical value,” the report said.

The College Board report was written by attorney Arthur L. Coleman, who wrote the court brief filed today. Coleman also collaborated with Katherine E. Lipper and NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. on the 2011 publication Achieving Educational Excellence for All: a Guide to Diversity-Related Policy Strategies for School Districts.

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 13th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Diversity, School Law, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , |

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Board News, School Law|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Pundits made a big deal about Rick Perry forgetting the name of one of the three federal departments he plans to eliminate if elected president– for the record, it was the Department of Energy — but blogger Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is more concerned about just what the Texas governor means when he says the Department of Education would also be “gone.”

“It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere),” Hess wrote. “So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?”

Then – wouldn’t you know it? – it gets complicated.

Would Perry try to eliminate federal funding for special education? Hess asked. How about Pell grants or Title 1?

“Many will think there are obvious right and wrong answers to these questions,” Hess writes after posing a few other queries “But I do want to know what the GOP candidate’s bold promises really mean.”

Remember nearly 10 years ago when Connecticut went to court over No Child Left Behind, claiming it would cost millions in unfunded mandates? Well, just look at what it could cost California in required “reforms” in order to be granted an NCLB waiver by the Obama Administration, writes This Week in Education’s John Thompson, and Connecticut’s decade-old legal gambit doesn’t seem that out of line.

Lastly, we turn to two timely blogs from NSBA’s Center for Public Education.  In one Mandy Newport, a former teacher, Center intern, and graduate student at George Washington University, takes the Heritage Foundation to task for it’s ill-conceived idea that paying teachers less will result in education improvements.

Then there is Research Analyst Jim Hull’s blog on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, the title of which I absolutely love:

“Using research to inform policy without understanding the research.”

Sort of like, “Vowing to eliminate the Department of Education without understanding what the Department of Education does?”

Lawrence Hardy|November 19th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Successful reform efforts often begin with attitude adjustment

One comment stood out a few weeks ago when I interviewed Patricia Holubec, a high school principal in the small, rural Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District.

A largely Hispanic district in the flatlands of south Texas, Skidmore-Tynan is not wealthy by any means: Sixty-five percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and many of its graduates must leave the area to find employment in the oil fields or state prisons that ring the district.

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Naomi Dillon|June 14th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Publications, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

One trend creating another?

column-chart-mdYesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a new initiative he hoped would encourage school districts in the state to share costs and ultimately savings in the business of public education. His incentive: money.

I think it’s brilliant. And while I pinpointed the proliferation of partnerships and consolidation of services for this year’s Education Vital Signs, I could not have seen and did not guess it would spawn yet another education trend, though at the moment Texas seems to be only one offering state funds— a grant equal to 10 percent of a district’s first-year savings—for districts that pool their resources. But I can see that changing quickly.

After all, it doesn’t take rocket science— some basic business sense, perhaps— to understand the economies of scale that can be achieved by buying in bulk and spreading the cost out among multiple parties.
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Naomi Dillon|September 1st, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance|Tags: , , , , , |

Corporal punishment still, inexplicably, being meted out some school districts

SpankingIn many cases, a wide sweeping federal mandate is not the best solution for setting policies in schools.  Individual school boards are much better able to evaluate and work with their schools on a personal, local level that national programs just can’t match.

But what about schools that refuse to mandate a change that seems so pressing, and so obviously necessary, that it is a wonder they didn’t do it decades ago? A Washington Post report tells the story of Temple—a city in central Texas that still uses corporal punishment on misbehaving students.

New York Congress member Carolyn McCarthy plans to unveil legislation to put a federal ban on paddling students. One would hope a national ruling against educators striking kids would be unnecessary in modern times (even prisons have outlawed physical forms of punishment), but apparently not. Twenty states still allow corporal punishment and, in Temple, that means paddling.

 John Hancock, the assistant superintendent of administration for Temple schools told the Washington Post, “the school system had banned corporal punishment about six years ago because a state law change made what was permissible uncertain. Follow-up made clear that schools could paddle.”
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Naomi Dillon|April 20th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|Tags: , , |

ASBJ editor has a few suggestions for generating revenue, controversy

96px-SpaceneedleseattleWhew! What a relief. The Seattle Public Schools aren’t going to charge parents an “administrative fee” for donating money to their children’s schools.

Did you hear about that story? Someone in the school system apparently told parent groups that they might be charged a fee for the paperwork involved in handling money from the PTA and other parent groups.

Turns out, the brouhaha that followed was much ado about nothing. The school board says it knew nothing about the idea. And once parents began voicing their reaction, the central office quickly sent out word that such a fee “was not a productive suggestion.”

Okay. Somebody got ahead of himself (or herself). No big deal. Mistakes happen. Enough said.

And yet . . . I can’t help but think: Given the financial crunch facing so many school districts, perhaps such creative—nay, let’s say off-the-wall—ideas should be given more consideration.

So, trusting the Seattle school board has a sense of humor, I’ll share some of the ideas I’ve pondered in the last few days:
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Naomi Dillon|March 25th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|Tags: , , |

Don’t mess with Texas— or its version of history

ist1_3162960-flag-of-texasThanks to the patriots on the Texas Board of Education, the words of Jefferson will long be enshrined in that state’s social studies curriculum.

Jefferson Davis, that is: defender of states rights, bulwark against unwarranted federal intrusion, and, incidentally, president of the Confederate States of America.

That other Jefferson? The one who lived down the road in Monticello? He’s not so popular with the conservative majority on the board, which voted provisionally last week to adopt the standards. Might have something to do with his little line about “separation between church and state.”

At any rate, according to the Washington Post, Thomas Jefferson has been cut “from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century” …” (Pssst: He was also a deist!)

So why, for example, will Jefferson Davis’ Inaugural Address be studied alongside Lincoln’s?
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Naomi Dillon|March 23rd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance|Tags: , , |
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