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Dismissal

DID THE PARENT RAISE VALID CLAIMS ON BEHALF OF HER DAUGHTER?

Case citation:  Conely v. Georgetown ISD, 2014 WL 2727107 (W.D. Tex. 2014) (unpublished).

Summary:  Vallie Conely was the mother of a student in the Georgetown Independent School District, when she filed suit against the district alleging that her daughter was suffering from abuse at school. Proceeding without the assistance of legal counsel, Conely claimed that her daughter was targeted by bullies at school, and neither her daughter’s teacher nor other school administrators protected the girl. According to Conely, this pattern repeated itself at three different schools in the district, despite Conely’s requests for assistance.

Conely requested relief pursuant to the section of the Texas Family Code requiring certain persons to report the abuse of a child. As relief, she requested an investigation into the abuse of children in the district, that students be allowed to go to school without abuse or bullying, all employees from whom she sought help be terminated and brought to justice, as well as damages for pain and suffering.

Ruling:  The trial court dismissed the parent’s suit.   First, the court noted that the allegations involved only harm to her daughter. While a complaining party may represent herself, the law does not allow her to act as an attorney for others.   Thus, Conely as a non-lawyer could not represent her daughter in this case. Further, to the extent Conely was attempting to represent herself, she lacked standing to sue. The suit alleged misconduct that occurred at her daughter’s school and which resulted in harm to her daughter.  Therefore, Conely did not allege that she suffered an injury, which is required to establish standing.

The court next held that it did not have jurisdiction over a claim for a violation of the Texas Family Code.  While such a violation may be actionable under Texas law, the federal district court did not have jurisdiction over that claim.   The suit also fell outside the two-year statute of limitations applicable here. The suit alleged conduct dating back to November of 2010, well beyond the two-year limitations period.  The trial court had already granted Conely an opportunity to amend the suit to clear the various deficiencies noted above, but Conely failed to do so. Therefore, the trial court dismissed the suit.

 

Commissioner Jurisdiction

DID THE COMMISSIONER HAVE JURISDICTION OVER THE NONRENEWAL APPEAL?

Case citation:  Fulcherv. Canadian ISD, Dkt. No. 091-R8-0612 (Comm’r Educ. June 20, 2014).

Summary:  Patti Fulcher worked for the Canadian Independent School District when she was given notice of her proposed nonrenewal.  After her nonrenewal hearing, the district’s board of trustees voted to nonrenew Fulcher’s term contract.  Fulcher appealed to the Commissioner of Education, but the district argued that jurisdiction did not exist over the appeal.

Ruling:  The Commissioner dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.  Fulcher asserted that jurisdiction was proper under Texas Education Code § 7.057, which generally applies to alleged breaches of contract and violations of the school laws of Texas. However, an appeal of a board’s decision to nonrenew a term contract should be brought under Texas Education Code chapter 21, Subchapter G.  Jurisdiction for the appeal of a decision to nonrenew a term contract is found exclusively under Education Code § 21.301.  Further, Texas Education Code § 7.057 specifically states that it does not apply to appeals that can be brought under Education Code chapter 21, subchapter G.  Thus, the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction over the appeal.

The Commissioner did not allow Fulcher to amend the appeal to assert a proper basis for jurisdiction.  According to the Commissioner, the statutory deadline for doing so had passed.  In addition, the thirty-day timeline for the Commissioner to issue a decision had also passed.  Under the Education Code, the Commissioner must issue a decision within thirty days of the last day the district could file a response.   If the Commissioner fails to do so, the decision of the board is automatically affirmed.  Thus, according to the Commissioner, the time for Fulcher to amend the appeal already had passed.