THE ONLY VIABLE CLAIM STEMMING FROM THE STUDENT’S GRADES WAS MOOT DUE TO THE STUDENT’S GRADUATION
Case citation: Child v. South Texas ISD, 012-R5-10-2012 (Comm’r Educ. Dec. 11, 2014).
Summary: The parents of a student in the South Texas Independent School District filed an appeal with the Commissioner of Education arguing that the district failed to comply with its grading and grievance policies and that a teacher behaved unethically. The parents alleged violations of the student’s First Amendment rights, the child’s constitutional right to an education, and the parents’ rights to be informed of their student’s education. Specifically, the parents claimed that a teacher retaliated against the student when the student complained that the teacher was distracted with personal matters during instruction. According to the complaint, the teacher also did not submit grades timely, resulting in the student receiving a grade of zero on more than one occasion. The parents claimed that the student was not provided an opportunity to improve the student’s grades. The parents also claimed that they were not told of their right to file a grievance and were not properly informed of their child’s educational progress. The district argued that jurisdiction did not exist over the claims.
Ruling: The Commissioner held that the only claim over which he had jurisdiction was moot because the student already had graduated from high school and was no longer enrolled as a student in the district. The Commissioner’s jurisdiction under Texas Education Code § 7.057 is limited to violations of certain written employment contracts and violations of the school laws of Texas. The school laws of Texas are the first two titles of the Texas Education Code and the rules adopted under those titles.
According to the Commissioner, the parents’ complaints of unethical behavior by the teacher fell within the jurisdiction of the State Board for Educator Certification. The Commissioner does not have jurisdiction over claims that a teacher has violated ethical standards. The Commissioner also did not have jurisdiction over constitutional claims that the teacher retaliated against the student for exercising her free speech rights or based on the denial of an education.
The parents cited Texas Education Code § 28.022(a)(3) for the proposition that the district failed to properly inform them of the student’s progress. Education Code § 28.022(a)(3) requires districts to have policies about sending parents notice of a student’s progress. The parents alleged that the district sent notice, but that it was inaccurate. The Commissioner concluded that, “[w]hile this might conceivably present a potential violation of Texas Education Code section 28.022(a)(3), Petitioner has graduated.” This claim, therefore, was moot. The Commissioner, likewise, dismissed claims stemming from alleged violations of the District’s grievance procedures. Because the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction over the underlying claims that gave rise to the grievances, the Commissioner was not required to evaluate whether the district violated its grievance policies.