Response from David A. Anderson, General Counsel, Texas Education Agency
Received February 7, 2000
1701 North Congress Ave.   Austin, Texas,78701-1494  512/463-9734   FAX: 512/463-9838

Jim Nelson,
Commissioner of Education

February 7, 2000

Jordan Riak
Executive Director
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education
P0 Box 1033
Alamo California 94507-7033

Dear Mr. Riak:

This is in response to your letters to former Commissioner Moses and me. Disciplinary procedures in Texas public schools are delegated to locally elected school boards under Sections 11.051 and 37.001 of the Texas Education Code. A parent with a complaint about the districts discipline policy or how it is applied is entitled to use the district grievance process to bring complaints to the local board. From the letter you enclosed it does not appear that the parent has made use of that process.

State law allows school districts to adopt policies authorizing corporal punishment, or to prohibit its use. The decision is up to the board and is not subject to review by the state. State law provides immunity for school district personnel generally but does not protect them from the "use of excessive force in the discipline of students". See, Section 22.051, Texas Education Code. Thus, there can be legal recourse against a teacher for the use of excessive force in discipline, as well as the option of reporting truly abusive acts to the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. The local criminal authorities could of course prosecute any action by a teacher that would violate the Penal Code. Additionally the State Board for Educator Certification can sanction the teaching certificate of an individual found to have abused students. From the letter you enclosed, it does not appear the parent has pursued any of those options.

The real answer to your question is that Texas allows each community, acting through its elected officials to make a local decision about whether to use corporal punishment and under what circumstances. The editing of the letter you enclosed precludes any confirmation of the statements in it, and the agency would not generally accept a complaint that has never been brought to the attention of the board elected to govern that school district. Suffice it to say state law does offer a number of safeguards to deter and punish individuals who abuse their position and harm students. It does not offer a mechanism to change local policies other that through the district's local policy deliberations.

I have enclosed a copy of a recent article regarding disciplinary policies that may be useful to you.



David A. Anderson
General Counsel

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