General Inquiry - School District FAQ
This page answers questions about school district issues, dress code, immunizations, absentee policy, drug searches, and more. A number of the answers refer to specific sections of the Texas Education Code, which is the collection of state laws governing public schools and their employees.
- What are the policies for a student being absent for several days for educational purposes but not a school function?
- Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
- What authority do school districts have to enact a dress code?
- What are the legal requirements for hiring procedures, such as posting a position?
- How long are elementary schools given to organize kindergarten through grade 4 classes to make sure they don't exceed the 22:1 ratio?
- What is the TEA policy on random drug searches?
- Where can one find information on the types of physical contact a teacher or coach can have with a student, such as poking a child in the chest?
- What options does a school district have in dealing with parents who do not have their children immunized, especially with the new Varicella and Hepatitis B immunizations?
- What laws, policies, or guidelines must a school district follow in determining which school in its district a child should attend?
- Can a school district hire a permanent substitute instead of a certified teacher who applied for the same position?
- Is there a method of redress if a district does not comply with TEA rules?
- Can a school district hire someone for a teaching position who does not have a teacher certification?
- Does TEA have authority to monitor and intervene with public schools?
1. What are the policies for a student being absent for several days for educational purposes but not a school function?
Except for religious observances, attending a required court appearance, doctor's appointments (where the student has left and returned to school in the same day), and a limited number of additional reasons found in Section 25.087 of the Texas Education Code, local school districts officials decide whether to excuse an absence.
Texas Education Code (TEC), Chapter 22, Subchapter C requires the following to be fingerprinted before employment:
- All certified educators (those holding an educator certification issued by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)
- All classroom substitute teachers and educational aides, whether certified or not
- Non-certified employees hired by a district or charter school on or after Jan. 1, 2008
- Charter school employees, whether certified or not, working in a teaching or professional position
- Contracted employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2008 who have direct contact with students
The following are subject to a name-based background check according to TEC § 22.0835:
- Noncertified employees hired before Jan. 1, 2008
- Contracted employees hired before Jan. 1, 2008 who have direct contact with students
- Student teachers
- Volunteers, unless they are a parent, grandparent, or guardian of a student; a person accompanied on campus by a district employee; or a person volunteering for a single event
School districts have the authority to adopt dress codes which may apply differently on a gender basis. For example, in the 1980s, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on a males-only earring policy in the Barber case, finding that the provision did not violate the Texas Equal Rights Amendment.
A dress code may not be too vague to give fair notice of what is prohibited and may not infringe on religious expression. Texas courts have allowed some Native American students to wear long hair as a religious expression, as well as religious head coverings by Jewish and Muslim students.
4. What are the legal requirements for hiring procedures, such as posting a position?
State education laws do not contain a provision requiring that a vacancy be advertised or posted. Hiring procedures, including vacancy posting and applicant screening, are governed by local policy.
School districts must comply with state and federal laws that require employers to follow nondiscriminatory hiring practices. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees based on race, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. Information about the EEO laws, including information about the complaint process, is available on EEOC website.
Although the education code does not prescribe hiring procedures, it does address the authority of superintendents to make recommendations for the selection of personnel, in Sections 11.201 and 11.163, and the approval authority of principals in Section 11.202.
5. How long are elementary schools given to organize kindergarten through grade 4 classes to make sure they don't exceed the 22:1 ratio?
A district must apply for a waiver from the 22:1 student-to-teacher ratio in the fall, typically in October. There are no state-mandated class size limits for other grades. The statutory authority for this law is TEC Section 25.112.
6.What is the TEA policy on random drug searches?
There are no state regulations on school district searches. School districts may enact policies for safety and security under Chapters 37 and 38 of the Texas Education Code. The agency cannot resolve the factual issues concerning a particular district action or program, but school districts generally have authority to conduct searches under certain circumstances.
7. Where can one find information on the types of physical contact a teacher or coach can have with a student, such as poking a child in the chest?
There are no state regulations of teacher conduct with students, other than general ethical standards for educators administered by SBEC, the licensing (certifying) body for teachers and other educators. Just as are other citizens, teachers are subject to general criminal statutes for assault or child abuse. Those laws are enforced by local law enforcement agencies. Districts typically have rules governing acceptable employee conduct. Complaints about employees can be reviewed up the chain of command to the school board.
8. What options does a school district have in dealing with parents who do not have their children immunized, especially with the new Varicella and Hepatitis B immunizations?
Admission to a school is not allowed until records are produced showing that:
- the child has been immunized in accordance with state immunization rules;
- the child has an exemption from immunization in accordance with state immunization rules; or
- the child is entitled to provisional enrollment.
Provisional enrollment applies to:
- students transferring from one Texas public or private school to another;
- students who are homeless according to the federal McKinney-Vento Act; or
- students who have begun required immunizations and are receiving them as quickly as medically feasible.
Additional information about immunization requirements is available at www.ImmunizeTexas.com or contact the Immunization Division Customer Service team at (512) 458-7284 or (800) 252-9152.
9. What laws, policies, or guidelines must a school district follow in determining which school in its district a child should attend?
Section 25.031 of the Texas Education Code empowers the school board to "assign and transfer any student from one school facility or classroom to another within its jurisdiction." The locally elected board makes that call, with a few exceptions in districts that continue to be covered by a federal desegregation order. A parent can petition for a transfer under Section 25.033, but the final decision rests with the board.
10. Can a school district hire a permanent substitute instead of a certified teacher who applied for the same position?
School districts must follow the state certification rules when hiring teachers and other professional personnel. The rules governing certification requirements can be found in 19 TAC 230 of the Texas Administrative Code, and the rules governing assignment of public school personnel can be found in 19 TAC 230.601. If a person who is uncertified or serving under an emergency certificate is assigned to the same classroom for more than 30 days, the superintendent must provide written notice of the assignment to parents of students in the classroom, according to Section 21.057, Texas Education Code.
11. Is there a method of redress if a district does not comply with TEA rules?
If a district is failing to comply with a rule adopted by the Commissioner of Education or by the State Board of Education, the first step is to follow the school district's grievance procedure until the matter is either resolved or a decision is made by the local board of trustees. If the local school board makes a decision that is alleged to violate a rule, the board's decision may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education under Section 7.057 of the Texas Education Code.
12. Can a school district hire someone for a teaching position who does not have a teacher certification?
Under Section 21.003 of the Texas Education Code, a person may not be employed as a teacher, teacher intern or trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator or counselor unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit. A school district may employ a teacher under an emergency permit if he or she has been unable to secure a certified and qualified person for the position. To activate a permit, the district must follow the procedures set forth in 19 TAC Section 230.501 - 230.512 (subchapter Q). If a person who is serving under an emergency permit is assigned to the same classroom for more than 30 days, the superintendent must provide written notice of the assignment to parents of the students in the classroom.
13. Does TEA have authority to monitor and intervene with public school?
The School Improvement Division supports the state's goal to improve low-performing schools by reviewing, evaluating, monitoring, and intervening with campuses and their districts to ensure excellence in education for all students. The major responsibilities of the division include monitoring and interventions for state accountability, federal accountability, and dropout prevention.