Student conduct: Required notice to educators and… | TCTA
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Student conduct: Required notice to educators and confidentiality rules

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A classroom management issue can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation when the student involved has a propensity for violence or a criminal history of violent behavior. Because of this, Texas law requires law enforcement and school districts to notify educators of the presence of dangerous students in the classroom. Educators must protect the confidentiality of such information and are subject to harsh penalties for failure to do so.

Criminal conduct

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires the head of a law enforcement agency to orally notify a school district superintendent within 24 hours when the agency has information indicating that a student enrolled in the district has been arrested for certain types of offenses, such as assault, drug offenses or unlawful possession of a weapon. The superintendent must then immediately notify all instructional and support personnel who have responsibility for supervision of the student.

On conviction, adjudication or deferred prosecution of any type of covered offenses, the prosecuting attorney must within 24 hours notify the superintendent, who must then within 24 hours notify all instructional and support personnel who have regular contact with the student.

Statutory changes initiated by TCTA provide that the required notice to school personnel must include details of assaultive behavior or other violence, weapons used during the offense or conduct, weapons possessed during the offense or conduct, name of the person notified, and the date and time of the oral notice. State law also requires a school board to report to SBEC if it learns that a superintendent has failed to provide notice to applicable staff. Also, if a superintendent learns that the head of a law enforcement agency or designee failed to provide the required notice, the superintendent must report that failure to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Severe misconduct

When a student has engaged in conduct that requires placement in a disciplinary alternative education program or that may subject the student to expulsion, the Texas Education Code requires a principal to report the student’s misconduct to all educators who are responsible for the student’s instruction.

Conduct that triggers this reporting requirement includes criminal conduct such as assault, drug offenses or unlawful possession of a weapon (as covered by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure reporting requirement discussed in the box on page 50).

However, the reporting requirement in the Education Code is broader and also requires notice for additional types of conduct, such as making a false alarm or terroristic threat, committing an act that would be punishable as a felony, drug and alcohol offenses, and lewd conduct. Note that there is no requirement that the student be arrested or have criminal charges filed for this notice provision to apply, only that the underlying conduct contains the elements of the described offense.

Student transfers

Occasionally a district may enroll a student who transferred from another district or charter school while disciplinary action, such as placement in a DAEP, suspension or expulsion, is ongoing. The Education Code requires that the transferring school district inform the new school district of the disciplinary action and provide a copy of the order of disciplinary action. The new school district may then decide whether to require the student to complete the disciplinary action imposed by the transferring district.

A student also may enroll in a new school district while on probation or parole. In this instance, the parole or probation officer must notify the new school district of the student’s status in the criminal justice system. Legislation initiated by TCTA requires that this notification occur within 24 hours of the transfer or re-enrollment. District officials must then notify all instructional and support personnel who have contact with the student within 24 hours.

Confidentiality requirements

When an educator receives notification of dangerous student conduct pursuant to any of these statutory provisions, the educator is required by law to maintain the confidentiality of that information. Additionally, the Educators’ Code of Ethics prohibits an educator from revealing confidential information about students.

Disclosure of such confidential information could lead to the imposition of sanctions against an educator’s teaching certificate by SBEC and also could result in adverse employment action against the educator by the school district. Any educator who receives information about student misconduct should strictly protect the confidentiality of that information.

TCTA’s work to ensure safe classrooms

The provisions discussed in this section are largely the result of the TCTA lobby team’s efforts with the legislature over many years. TCTA believes that prompt notification to educators of potentially dangerous students contributes to campus safety. Educators who have access to information about a student’s criminal and disciplinary history can make appropriate decisions about how best to manage the potential risk the student presents to the safety of students or faculty.

TCTA advises educators that they have a duty to respect the confidentiality of the information entrusted to them and to ensure that these students have access to the educational opportunities offered by the district.

What kind of student conduct do they have to tell me about?

You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision has a criminal history for these offenses:

  • Any felony;
  • The following misdemeanors: unlawful restraint, indecent exposure, assault, deadly conduct, terroristic threat, engaging in organized criminal activity;
  • Unlawful use, sale or possession of a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia, or marijuana;
  • Unlawful possession of a weapon.

(Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 15.27)

You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision is required to register as a sex offender.
(Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 15.27)

You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision is subject to removal to a DAEP or expulsion for these acts:

  • False alarm, report or terroristic threat involving a public school;
  • Any of the following within 300 feet of a school: conduct punishable as a felony; assault; sale, delivery or possession of marijuana, controlled substance or a dangerous drug; possession, delivery or sale of alcohol, or being under the influence of alcohol; public lewdness; indecent exposure;
  • Retaliation against a school employee;
  • Any of the following on school property or while attending a school-sponsored event: use, exhibition or possession of a firearm, illegal knife or club; conduct that contains the elements of aggravated assault, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault; arson; murder or attempted murder; indecency with a child; aggravated kidnapping; aggravated robbery;
  • Severe or persistent misbehavior while placed in a DAEP.

(Texas Education Code §§ 37.006-37.007)