If you are notified by email, written memo or orally through the campus secretary that the principal wants to meet with you, the following questions may come to mind:
Do I have to go to the meeting?
Yes. Your immediate supervisor has provided you with a directive. Your failure to follow this directive could be considered an act of insubordination and result in formal disciplinary action, as well as negatively impact your appraisal.
If the meeting time poses a direct conflict with another previously scheduled activity, immediately contact your principal to discuss an alternate meeting time.
Can I be required to meet with my principal during my planning time?
Unless the meeting involves conferencing with a student’s parent(s), such a requirement would not be proper. However, unless you have a direct scheduling conflict, you should exercise your best professional discretion in favor of attending the meeting. Your principal should not abuse this professional courtesy.
Do I have a right to have an attorney present?
In most cases, your right to have legal counsel or another representative present is limited to formal grievance hearings or hearings concerning the proposed nonrenewal or termination of your employment contract. You may request that your administrator allow you to have a friend, colleague or other representative present during the meeting. Granting the request is normally within your supervisor’s discretion.
What if my principal schedules a grievance conference at the last minute?
You have a legal right to have an attorney or other representative present at the grievance conference. Your principal (or other administrator) is obligated to provide notice of the meeting in a timely manner to allow for your designated representative’s presence.
May I record the meeting?
Normally, the decision to allow audio recording of a meeting with your principal will be within your principal’s discretion. However, at any meeting or proceeding at which the substance of a grievance is discussed, an employee is allowed to make a recording, thanks to a TCTA-initiated law passed in 2009.
It is not illegal for an educator to secretly record discussions to which the educator is a party, though such recordings are rarely useful. However, some school districts have policies prohibiting such practices. More importantly, the commissioner of education has held that secretly recording such conversations is an unprofessional act and may be good cause for termination of employment.
In many cases, the principal will have another party, such as an assistant principal, present to serve as a witness, take notes, etc. Again, you may request the attendance of a colleague for the same purpose. At the least, you should make complete notes of the meeting for later reference. Depending on the subject being discussed, any notes created or recordings made by the administration may be available to you upon written request pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act.
Is the meeting confidential?
It depends. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) will apply in situations involving student records and related student information. Confidentiality also will apply in the context of teacher evaluations.
However, under certain circumstances, be aware that any information you provide may ultimately be shared with other school district personnel and officials, as well as outside parties such as the Texas Education Agency, State Board for Educator Certification, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, law enforcement agencies and possibly others.
If you suspect that a meeting with school personnel will involve potentially serious allegations, call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282 for consultation prior to the meeting, otherwise as soon as possible after the meeting.
Do I have to answer questions in the meeting?
In most cases, you should answer questions and/or provide your side of an issue in a professional manner and tone. Your principal may take action deemed appropriate for the situation if you fail to satisfactorily address their questions. An acceptable alternative may be to advise the principal that you would prefer to respond after consultation with the TCTA Legal Department and/or other legal counsel. You should always make such a request if the meeting includes district or other law enforcement personnel or a DFPS investigator. A school district employee may not be required to speak with or provide a written statement to law enforcement or DFPS personnel.
Do I have to sign a write-up, reprimand or document if I disagree with it?
Your signature on such a document does not usually constitute agreement, foreclose any remedies you may have regarding the subject matter addressed, or waive any other rights. This type of document usually states that your signature verifies your receipt of the document only, not your agreement to the substance of the document. If not, you may always indicate this restriction in writing above your signature.
A TCTA staff attorney can also provide assistance in writing a response or rebuttal to such a document, as well as provide further advice and consultation to members who call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282.