October 5, 2012
Administrators of Texas school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, and shared services arrangements:
To the Administrator Addressed:
This letter replaces, updates, and clarifies a letter to administrators dated October 9, 2008 regarding identification requirements for Child Protective Services investigators (CPS) when they visit a school facility.
The primary purpose of that 2008 letter was to clarify that the criminal history and fingerprint requirements of Texas Education Code (TEC) §22.0834 (which had been recently enacted) do not apply to CPS investigators. See Commissioner’s Rule 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §153.1101(10). However, language in the letter encouraging schools to consider accepting CPS photographic identity cards instead of driver’s licenses has sometimes been misinterpreted as a TEA statement of opinion that schools may not require a CPS worker to display a driver’s license. That is not a correct interpretation of the October 9, 2008 letter, as more fully explained below.
In fact, TEC §38.022(a) authorizes a school to require school visitors to display either a driver’s license or some other unspecified form of government photographic identification. The Texas Attorney General has held that school officials should cooperate fully with CPS requests regarding the conditions of the interview or questioning of a child at school pursuant to a CPS investigation, but it does not appear that either the Attorney General or an appellate court has yet ruled on the issue of the form of identification that a school may require from a CPS investigator.
In addition, TEC §38.022(b) authorizes a school to establish an electronic database for the purpose of storing information concerning visitors to district campuses, provided that such information may only be used for purposes of district security and may not be disseminated to any third party. Many such databases use an electronic scan of a driver’s license as a data entry mechanism, and these databases help schools address the very real problems of school safety and child custody interference by non-custodial parties.
Of major concern to CPS, because of the potential for facilitating harassment of its investigators, is the practice of some schools of copying and retaining investigator driver’s licenses or the personal information those licenses contain. Personal information contained in a driver’s license is made confidential under the Texas Public Information Act, Gov’t Code §552.130. While TEC §38.022(a) and (b) authorize requiring the display of government identification or the use of an electronic database for security purposes, §38.022 does not authorize retaining a paper copy of a driver’s license or other personal identification.
Additionally, §38.022(a) provides that schools may accept not just driver’s licenses but also other forms of government-issued photographic identification. Thus, if a driver’s license is not required for electronic database purposes, a CPS photographic identification card may be accepted for identification purposes, and further verification, if deemed necessary, may be obtained by calling the local CPS office.
Thank you for your attention and efforts in this matter. Should you have any questions, please contact Andrew Allen, Assistant Counsel, at (512) 936-8238.