General Inquiry - School Board FAQ
This section answers questions as they pertain to a local school board, board meetings, and board minutes among other issues.
- What are the policies regarding a school board trustee's conflict of interest in school board business?
- Can a teacher run for election to the local school board?
- May a school board or an individual trustee comment on a subject that comes up during an open forum or during a public comment period?
- Can a school board president or superintendent control who attends a school board meeting?
- What is the process for filing a complaint with TEA on certain acts of a school board?
- When and where must a school board post notice in advance of an upcoming regular school board meeting?
- Can a person be hired if they are related to a school board member? For example, the wife of a school board member's nephew. If the school board does not approve non-professional appointments will it be okay to hire her?
- Are school board "minutes" open public records?
1. What are the policies regarding a school board trustee's conflict of interest in school board business?
Conflicts of interest are governed by Chapter 171 of the Local Government Code. Depending on the circumstances, a board member may be required to disclose a potential conflict and refrain from discussing or voting on that issue. For a board member with different roles, the question is in what role is he or she is acting. As a board member, the trustee should be an advocates for employees, but as a business person doing business with the school board, the board member may also have a duty to protect the interests of the company he or she represents. This issue really all boils down to disclosure of a potential conflict and clarity as to what role someone is assuming.
2. Can a teacher run for election to the local school board?
The positions of public school teacher and trustee for the same district are legally incompatible. A teacher may run for school board in the district where he or she teaches. However, if the teacher wins the election, the teacher must give up the teaching position.
3. May a school board or an individual trustee comment on a subject that comes up during an open forum or during the public comment period?
Section 551.042 of the Texas Government Code limits the ability of a governmental body to deal with a subject that is not posted to discuss. If that is the case, the board can only respond to factual inquiries and discuss putting it on a subsequent agenda. They cannot discuss the merits of that section without first posting it for an open meeting.
4. Can a school board president or superintendent control who attends a school board meeting?
School board meetings are generally open to the public under Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code, except for executive sessions which may be held to discuss limited issues such as possible real estate purchases or personnel actions. No votes may be taken in executive session. During the public portion of the meeting, individuals who are disruptive may be removed if their conduct disrupts the meeting, but generally there is no ability to exclude members of the public from a public meeting. You can access more information about the Open Meetings Act at the Texas Attorney General's website.
5. What is the process for filing a complaint with TEA on certain acts of a school board?
A complaint about a school board can be filed in writing with the TEA Complaints Division. If your concern is with access to a public document, begin with the Attorney General's Office, Open Government Division.
6. When and where must a school board post notice in advance of an upcoming regular school board meeting?
The statute that is the "Texas Open Meetings Act" is found in Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code. The act requires that a school board must give the public advance written notice of the subjects it will consider in a regular, special, or called meeting. The notice must also state the date, hour and place of the meeting. A school district must post notice of meetings at a place at the central administrative office of the district that is generally accessible to the general public for at least 72 hours before the scheduled time of the meeting. The only exception to the 72 hour posting requirement is for "emergency" meetings and those meetings must meet the requirements of Texas Government Code Chapter 551.045. In cases of emergency, the board must post notice of the date, place and subject of the meeting for not less than 2 hours prior to the meeting.
Actions against a school board for non-compliance with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act is a function for local law enforcement authorities. The Office of the Attorney General has an Open Government hotline to answer questions about compliance with the act. The number is (512) 478-6736. Additionally, questions relating to the Texas Open Meetings Act and the text of the act are accessible online at the Attorney General's Open Government section of their website.
7. Can a person related to a school board member be hired? For example, could the district hire the wife of a school board member's nephew? If the school board does not approve non-professional appointments will it be okay to hire her?
Even if a school board does not approve a staff appointment, the nepotism law would still apply to the school board because the board has authority to approve or disapprove an appointment even if it doesn't actually do so. In other words, it could decide at any time to exercise that authority. However, under the nepotism law a person is considered to be related to a niece or nephew in the third degree. The nepotism law does not prohibit employing a person who is related to an officeholder in the third degree by affinity. A board member and the spouse of a board member's niece or nephew are related by affinity. Please refer to Sections 573.002, 573.024 and 573.025 of the Texas Government Code.