General Frequently Asked Questions
The following information contains answers to questions regarding general school, education issues and public school parents and students.
According to Sec. 25.087 of the Texas Education Code, a person required to attend school may be excused for temporary absence resulting from any cause acceptable to the teacher, principal, or superintendent of the school in which the person is enrolled. Essentially, excused absences are a local determination. There are a few situations in which an absence is required to be excused, such as observing a religious holy day, attending court, appearing at a governmental office for citizenship purposes, taking part in a naturalization oath ceremony, or attending an appointment with a health care professional provided that the student leaves school early or returns to school after the appointment.
House Bill 4545 recently passed in the 87th Regular Legislative Session. The new statute is effective, as of June 2021, with acceleration instruction practices required during the 2021-2022 school year for all students, based on results from Spring 2021. At a high level, the legislation included the elimination of grade retention and retest requirements in grades 5 and 8. For any student who does not pass the STAAR test in grade 3, 5, or 8 in math or reading, a LEA is required to establish an accelerated learning committee to develop an individual educational plan for the student and monitor progress. Questions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Given the disruptions of the 2020-2021 school year, the Texas Legislature has given parents new rights to decide whether or not their child repeats a grade. For students in grade 4 and above this option only exists for the 2021-22 school year, but for pre-k through grade 3 the option is permanent. The decision as to whether your child needs to repeat a grade or course in the upcoming school year is your decision to make as a parent. More information is available at the following TEA website: https://tea.texas.gov/texas-schools/health-safety-discipline/covid/repeat-a-grade-or-course.
TEA does not regulate, index, monitor, approve, register, or accredit the programs available to parents who choose to homeschool. You do not need to call us to let us know that you intend to home school; however, you do need to contact the school where your child is currently enrolled in order to formally withdraw them. Your school may require an informational “letter of assurance” about your decision, but withdrawing your child for home schooling is your decision. For additional information on home schooling, please contact the Texas Home School Coalition or the Texas Home Educators.
The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA’s) authority is limited to Texas public schools only. The TEA does not have authority to accredit any school other than a Texas public school.
Resources to determine the accreditation status of schools other than Texas public schools:
- Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC).
- U.S. accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). (See Section 4)
- Accrediting organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the USDE.
Questions about accreditation in regards to an online school or program may be submitted to the Texas Virtual School Network Help Desk.
The truancy laws in the Texas Education Code can be found in Chapter 25, subchapter C. A school district is required to adopt truancy prevention measures under §25.0915. §25.095 requires school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to notify parents of attendance requirements at the beginning of the school year. An additional notice is required after a student has a certain number of unexcused absences. §25.0951(a) and (b) provide two options for compulsory attendance enforcement. Additional laws related to truancy can be found in Chapter 65 of the Texas Family Code.
Chapter 34 of the Texas Education Code outlines statutes related to safety standards, the operation of school buses, and the public-school transportation system. A school district may establish and operate the public-school transportation system; if parents have questions about bus routes, safety, or bus drivers, they should contact the district’s transportation personnel or office. Contact information can usually be found on the district’s website. If contact information is not readily accessible, parents may contact their child’s campus for assistance.
According to Chapter 25 of the Texas Education Code, a school district may not enroll more than 22 students in a prekindergarten, kindergarten, first, second, third, or fourth grade class. 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. Parents and guardians are encouraged to contact a campus administrator for more information about their child’s class size if they have questions or concerns.
TEA maintains the following student records for Texas public schools:
- High School Graduation Information from 1990-1991 to present, including confirmation of Texas graduation and date graduated
- Course Information from 1992-1993 to present, including student course information for grades 9-12 for regular fall and spring semesters only
- Attendance Information from 1992-1993 to present, including a list of Texas schools and the years the student attended
Please note that TEA does not have diplomas, transcripts, or summer school/correspondence course attendance information. If you are seeking a diploma or transcript, please contact your school or district office directly. If you believe that TEA has the records you seek, please submit a Public Information Request. You may view directions for this process here: https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/contact-us/public-information-requests.
School districts must keep some student records permanently. The office assigned to maintain those records is determined locally. A school district retains student records for a period of time determined by its local record retention plan, but some retention periods are determined by schedules published by the State Library and Archives Commission.
Educators must adhere to the Educator's Code of Ethics, which can be found in Title 19, Chapter 247 of the Texas Administrative Code. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is responsible for enforcing the ethics code. If you believe an educator has violated the Code of Ethics, a report can be made to SBEC through their complaint process.
No, the Texas Legislature changes the Texas Education Code. The Texas Education Agency implements the code as directed by the Legislature. However, state law does give the commissioner the ability to waive a few specific statutory requirements.
Amendments to the McKinney Act in the No Child Left Behind bill require a district to transport a student to the "school of origin" attended before the student became homeless (42 USC 11432(g)(1)(J)). There are other provisions that allow a change of campus assignment (42 USC 11432(g)(3)), though they are very deferential to the parent's preferences. These are requirements of accepting federal funds; it does not matter that the transportation crosses district or county lines (there are no state laws that prohibit either). McKinney questions can be addressed to the agency at 512-463-9357; transportation questions at 512-463-9237.
More information on homeless education in Texas is available at the Texas Homeless Education Office at the University of Texas at Austin.
Unless exempted from attendance by Texas Education Code Section 25.086, a child who is at least six years old and under 19 years of age is required to attend school. There are several exemptions from this requirement. A primary exemption is for students who are enrolled in a private or parochial school, including a home school. Another primary exemption applies to students who are at least 17 years of age and are either enrolled in a GED (high school equivalency) program or have received either a high school diploma or a GED certificate. The statutes stating the compulsory ages of attendance and the exemptions from attendance are Sections 25.085 and 25.086 of the Texas Education Code. If a child is required to attend school and fails to do so, criminal charges may be brought against the parent under Section 25.093.
A child is not required to attend school unless he or she is at least six years old on September 1 of the school year. Enrollment in kindergarten is not required. However, if a child is enrolled in Kindergarten, regular attendance is required. If the child has too many unexcused absences while enrolled, compulsory attendance charges may be filed. A parent who enrolls a child in Kindergarten may choose to withdraw the child at any time during the school year.
A social security number (SSN) is generally used to report students in the state system, but other options are available. Most student-identifiable information, including SSN, is protected as confidential by state and federal law. A student who does not have a social security number or whose parents do not wish to disclose it is assigned a state-issued number.
State law recognizes the right of individual students to pray in a nondisruptive manner (Section 25.901, Texas Education Code). A school district may provide for a period of silence at the beginning of the school day (Section 25.082, Texas Education Code). There are constitutional restrictions on the ability of school districts to actively participate in activities that amount to religious observances.
TEC Section 26.003(a) (2) is an entitlement to access to the administrator for the purpose of making a request. It is not an entitlement to unilaterally move the parent's child. It is just to talk to the right person. Note that the section recognizes that need to balance the effects of an assignment on other students. School districts can consider the overall makeup of classes when assigning each student.
TEC Section 26.003(a) (3) is more strongly worded, requiring that a district's action denying those requests must be "reasonable." That is still a deferential legal standard, which generally means a district's action will be upheld if the decision was based on a logical reason.
There is no express right to visit a school, though most, of course, welcome parents. Depending on the security concerns appropriate to the school, most will require a sign-in or sometimes advance notice. Many will not allow visitors during testing or some other particularly busy period. This will all be governed by your district's policies about parents visiting, which you should be able to get at the school district's or school's administration office. A complaint about that policy or about an administrator should be taken through the local grievance process (to the principal, then the superintendent, then the school board), which is also a policy you should be able to obtain from the school district's or school's administration office.
Texas school districts must provide at least 75,600 minutes of instruction (Section 25.081, Texas Education Code). However, some districts have a waiver from the Commissioner of Education allowing them to substitute a few of those days for teacher professional development days.
To receive credit for a class, a student is required to attend school for at least 90 percent of the days the class is offered (Section 25.092, Texas Education Code). Students with excessive absences may restore credit as provided by local policy.
No, Section 25.087 provides that a student's absence may be excused for "any cause acceptable to the teacher, principal or superintendent." Texas Education Code Section 25.091 provides that a complaint or referral for failure to attend school is to be filed after a student has a certain number of absences "without excuse."
Personal information about students is governed by the federal law known as FERPA. Name, address and phone number can often be given out as directory information under that statute, though social security numbers should not be given out. There are provisions in the FERPA regulations allowing information to be shared with certain educational oversight agencies, such as TEA or the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), as well as other exceptions. The regulations (Chapter 99 of Title 34 of the US Code of Federal Regulations) are fairly readable and on the US DOE website.
Information about public employees is generally public, except that Section 552.024 of the Texas Government Code requires a process by which an employee be given 14 days to choose to keep a home address, phone number, social security number and family information confidential. There is no real distinction to releasing information over the telephone; either it has been released or not released.
The only authorization to withhold records is Section 31.104(d) of the Texas Education Code, which allows withholding an official transcript (only) because of failure to pay for a lost textbook. Even then, the district may not withhold the report card indefinitely. Under Section 28.022 of the Education Code, a school district must give the parent written notice of the student's performance in each class of subject at least once every 12 weeks. The district must comply with Section 28.022 regardless of nonpayment of fines.
Section 25.0021 to the Education Code requires a student to be identified by either the surname on the birth certificate or a court order changing the student's name. Additionally, the academic achievement record (transcript) of a student must reflect the student's full legal name from the student’s birth certificate or other legal document, per 19 Texas Administrative Code §74.5(b) and the Texas Education Agency's Minimum Standards for the Academic Achievement Record (2012), Sec. 1.11.
There are no state guidelines. This issue has been litigated as a constitutional challenge to drug-testing programs in public schools. While a number of cases have been decided or are on appeal, about all that can be definitively said is that random testing of student athletes is constitutional, since that has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Beyond that, there is no definitive guidance.
A student is entitled to enroll in Texas public schools based on residency in the district, regardless of whether she is pregnant or parenting. Federal law also prohibits discrimination in an educational program on the basis of pregnancy.
Each school district has a Student Code of Conduct that describes the policy decisions that the district's board has made regarding student discipline. While there are state minimums under Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, a district is generally free to determine what punishments it will use.
In Owasso Independent School District No. I-011 v. Falvo, decided Feb. 9, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court held that having students grade each other's papers and call out the grades does not violate FERPA, the federal confidentiality statute. The court did not address whether a grade on an individual assignment is a protected "education record" after it is recorded in the teacher's grade book.
A parent is entitled to a copy of all education records that are directly related to a student and maintained by a public school under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Those regulations are in Chapter 99 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. What it means to be an "education record" under FERPA is less clear since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the peer grading case (the tests being graded were not found to be student records). State law also recognized parental access to student records under our Public Information Act (Section 552.114, Texas Government Code and Section 26.004, Texas Education Code).
If a record exists that is directly related to a particular student, that student's parents generally have a right to a copy of the record, subject to a very few health and safety exceptions, such as criminal investigations, and subject to protecting confidential information about other students.
The Texas Dyslexia Handbook is developed and adopted into administrative rule by the Texas State Board of Education. The handbook contains guidelines for school districts to follow as they identify and provide services for students with dyslexia. In addition, information regarding the state's dyslexia statutes and their relation to various federal laws is included. Additional resources and are available on our Dyslexia and Related Disorders website. If you have questions, please call the State Dyslexia Helpline at (800) 232-3030.