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The Educator's Guide to Texas School Law

The Educator's Guide to Texas School Law
Eighth Edition

Now thoroughly updated and streamlined throughout, here is the standard legal resource for Texas educators, which has sold more than 85,000 copies.

September 2014
This book is out of print and no longer available.
504 pages | 6 x 9 |

Much has changed in the area of school law since the first edition of The Educator’s Guide was published in 1986. Successive editions grew incrementally longer to keep abreast of legal developments. In this new eighth edition, the authors have streamlined the discussion by pruning older material and weaving in new developments. The result is an authoritative source on all major dimensions of Texas school law that is both well integrated and easy to read.

Intended for Texas school personnel, school board members, interested attorneys, and taxpayers, the eighth edition explains what the law is and what the implications are for effective school operations. It is designed to help professional educators avoid expensive and time consuming lawsuits by taking effective preventive action. It is an especially valuable resource for school law courses and staff development sessions.

The eighth edition begins with a review of the legal structure of the Texas school system. As Chapter 1 notes, education law is a complex interweaving of state and federal constitutional, statutory, administrative, and judicial law. It is important to understand the nature of the system before reading other sections.

Successive chapters address attendance and the instructional program, the education of children with special needs, employment and personnel, expression and associational rights, the role of religion in public schools, student discipline, open meetings and records, privacy, search and seizure, and legal liability under both federal and Texas law. In addition to state law, the book addresses the role of the federal government in school operation through such major federal legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Statute and case references are kept as simple as possible, and a complete index of case citations is included for those readers who wish to consult the cases themselves. The appendices describe how case law is reported and where to find it, along with a glossary of legal terms and a listing of other sources on Texas school law.



1. An Overview of Education Law, Texas Schools, and Parent Rights

Sources of Law

Constitutional Law
Statutory Law
Administrative Law
Judicial Law

The Structure and Governance of the Texas School System

Texas Legislature
State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency
Local School Districts
Charter Schools
Private Schools
School Administrators
District- and Campus-Level Decision-Making

How the U.S. Constitution and Federal Government Affect Texas Schools

Key Provisions of the U.S. Constitution
Important Federal Statutes

School Finance

Parent Rights

Rights within Public Schools
Choosing Private Schools
Educating Children at Home


2. Student Attendance and the Instructional Program


Impermissible Discrimination
Residency, Guardianship, and the Right to Attend a District's Schools
The Compulsory School Attendance Law
Kindergarten and Prekindergarten Programs

Maintaining a Safe School Environment

The Instructional Program

The Required Curriculum
Student Assessment
School District Accountability
The Effect of the No Child Left Behind Act
Removal of Objectionable Library and Study Materials
Technology at School: Computers, the Internet, and Cell Phones
The Federal Copyright Law

Extracurricular Activities and the UIL

Addressing the Needs of Special Groups

At-Risk Children
Bilingual Children
Gifted Children
Abused and Neglected Children


3. Special Education

The Jargon of Special Education

Federal Legislation

Child Find
Response to Intervention (RtI)
ARD Committee
Individualized Education Program
General Curriculum
NCLB and Statewide Assessments
Least Restrictive Environment
Procedural Safeguards
Attorneys' Fees
Related Services
Extended School Year Services
Unilateral Placements
Private-School Children

Discipline of Students with Disabilities

Stay Put
Change of Placement
Ten Days
Manifestation Determinations

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973


4. The Employment Relationship

Constitutional Issues

Due Process of Law
How Much Process Is Due?

Types of Employment Arrangements

At-Will Employment
Non–Chapter 21 Contracts
Probationary Contracts
Term Contracts
Continuing Contracts
Third-Party Independent Contract Educators and Retire/Rehire

Selection of Staff

Certification and the Role of SBEC
Nondiscrimination Laws
Protected Activity
The Hiring Process
Criminal Records
The Impact of NCLB
Restrictions on Employment

Ending the Relationship

At-Will Employees
Non–Chapter 21 Contracts
Probationary Contracts
Term Contracts

Contract Nonrenewal
Contract Termination
Professional Capacity
Dual-Assignment Contracts
Reduction in Force (RIF)

Continuing Contracts
The Independent Hearing System
A Few Final Thoughts on "Good Cause"
Constructive Discharge


5. Personnel Issues


The Constitutional Issues
Same Professional Capacity
Compensation Issues
Duties and Schedule
The Commissioner's Jurisdiction
Reassignment of the Superintendent

Compensation Disputes

Teacher Appraisal

Employment Benefits

Planning and Preparation Period
Duty-Free Lunch
Personal Leave
Health Insurance
Assault Leave
Teacher Retirement
Temporary Disability Leave
Family and Medical Leave Act
Miscellaneous Leave Policies

Wage and Hour Requirements

Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Compensation

Grievances and the Role of Employee Organizations

Employee Grievances: A Little History
Hearing Employee Grievances
The Role of Employee Organizations
Collective Bargaining on the National Scene
The Law in Texas


6. Expression and Associational Rights

Educator Rights of Expression

Expression outside the School
Expression within the School
Electronic Communication
Academic Freedom
Texas Whistleblower Act

Educator Freedom of Association

Student Rights of Expression

Communication among Students on Campus
School-Sponsored Student Publications
Non-School-Sponsored Student Publications and Materials
Electronic Communication

Student Freedom of Association


7. Religion in the Schools

Legal Framework

No Government Establishment of Religion
Free Exercise of Religion

Contemporary Issues

The Pledge of Allegiance
School Prayer

School-Sponsored or Employee-Led Prayer
Silent Meditation
Invocations, Benedictions, and Religious Speeches at Graduation
Baccalaureate Ceremonies
Student-Initiated Prayer at School, Extracurricular Activities, and Athletic Events

Teaching Creation-Science
Secular Humanism and Pagan Religion
Religion in Classrooms, Choir Programs, and Holiday Observances

Teaching about Religion
Student Papers and Presentations on Religious Topics
Choir Programs
Holiday Observances

Clergy in the Schools
Distribution of Religious Literature
Wearing Religious Symbols
Student Religious Groups Meeting on Campus
Religious Exemptions
Assistance to Sectarian Private Schools


8. Student Discipline

Constitutional Concerns: Due Process

Other Constitutional Issues

Protected Areas
Void for Vagueness

Chapter 37: An Overview

Student Code of Conduct
Teacher-Initiated Removal
Removal to a DAEP

Mandatory Placements
Discretionary Placements
Life in a DAEP



Emergency Actions
Interaction with Law Enforcement

Other Disciplinary Practices

Corporal Punishment
Suspension from Extracurricular Activities


9. Privacy Issues: Community, Educators, Students

The Legal Framework

The U.S. Constitution
Federal Statutes
State Law

The Texas Open Meetings and Public Information Acts

Texas Open Meetings Act

Meetings and Quorums
Emergency Meetings
Closed Sessions
Tape Recordings and Certified Agendas
Meetings by Telephone and Videoconference Call
Internet Broadcast
Criminal Provisions

Texas Public Information Act

Items That Must Be Disclosed
Personal Information
Criminal History Information, Witness Statements, and Investigative


Inter- or Intraagency Memoranda
Student Records
Other Exempt Items
Production of Records

Educator Privacy Rights

Lifestyle Issues
Employee Drug Testing
Personnel Records and Employee References
Search of School Computer Files and Pagers
Search of File Cabinets

Student Privacy Rights

Student Personal Privacy
Student Records

Parent Rights
Education Records
Disclosure of Records

Child Custody Issues
Student Dress and Grooming

Student Search and Seizure

Standards for Student Searches
Strip Searches
Use of Magnetometers, Metal Detectors, and Breathalyzers
Locker and Desk Searches
Search of Cell Phones and Electronic Communications
Use of Sniffer Dogs to Conduct Searches
Student Drug Testing


10. Legal Liability

Identifying Areas of Legal Liability

State Torts

School District Immunity
Sovereign Immunity and Contract Cases
Qualified Immunity for Public School Professional Employees
The Special Case of Corporal Punishment and Physical Force
Law and the School Counselor

Federal Civil Rights Liability

Governmental Liability
Individual Liability
Personal Injuries and the Constitution

A Federally Protected Right
The District Itself Is Responsible
More Than Negligence
A New Theory

Liability under Federal Statutory Law



A. How to Find and Read a Court Case
B. Glossary of Legal Terminology
C. Reference Sources

Index of Cases
Index of Topics


1. Basic Components of Texas Education Law
2. Relationship of Law to Establishment and Operation of Texas
Public Schools
3. School Finance at a Glance
4. Major School Desegregation Decisions, 1954–2007
5. Complying with Copyright Guidelines


1. The Overall Structure of Texas Administrative Law
2. Geographic Jurisdiction of U.S. District Courts in Texas


Jim Walsh is a cofounder of Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green and Trevino, P.C. in Austin; managing editor of the Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest; and editor-in-chief of Texas School Business magazine.
Frank Kemerer is Regents Professor-Emeritus of Education Law and Administration at the University of North Texas and founder of the Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest. He lives in San Diego, California.
Laurie Maniotis is an attorney who investigates employment discrimination claims for the City of Fort Worth.