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TITLE 19EDUCATION
PART 7STATE BOARD FOR EDUCATOR CERTIFICATION
CHAPTER 249DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS, SANCTIONS, AND CONTESTED CASES
SUBCHAPTER BENFORCEMENT ACTIONS AND GUIDELINES
RULE §249.14Complaint, Required Reporting, and Investigation; Investigative Notice; Filing of Petition

(a) The Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff may obtain and investigate information concerning alleged improper conduct by an educator, applicant, examinee, or other person subject to this chapter that would warrant the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) denying relief to or taking disciplinary action against the person or certificate.

(b) Complaints against an educator, applicant, or examinee must be filed in writing.

(c) The TEA staff may also obtain and act on other information providing grounds for investigation and possible action under this chapter.

(d) A person who serves as the superintendent of a school district or the director of an open-enrollment charter school, private school, regional education service center, or shared services arrangement may notify the SBEC of any educator misconduct that the person believes in good faith may be subject to sanctions under this chapter and/or Chapter 247 of this title (relating to Educators' Code of Ethics). However, under any of the following circumstances, a person who serves in such a position shall promptly notify in writing the SBEC by filing a report with the TEA staff within seven calendar days of the date the person first obtains or has knowledge of those circumstances and may be subject to sanctions for failure to do so pursuant to §249.15(b)(4) of this title (relating to Disciplinary Action by State Board for Educator Certification):

  (1) that an applicant for or a holder of a certificate has a reported criminal history;

  (2) that a certificate holder was terminated from employment based on a determination that he or she committed any of the following acts:

    (A) sexually or physically abused a student or minor or engaged in any other illegal conduct with a student or minor;

    (B) possessed, transferred, sold, or distributed a controlled substance;

    (C) illegally transferred, appropriated, or expended school property or funds;

    (D) attempted by fraudulent or unauthorized means to obtain or to alter any certificate or permit that would entitle the individual to be employed in a position requiring such certificate or permit or to receive additional compensation associated with a position;

    (E) committed a crime, any part of such crime having occurred on school property or at a school-sponsored event; or

    (F) solicited or engaged in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor;

  (3) that a certificate holder resigned and reasonable evidence supported a recommendation by the person to terminate a certificate holder because he or she committed one of the acts specified in paragraph (2) of this subsection.

    (A) Before accepting an employee's resignation that, under this paragraph, requires a person to notify the SBEC by filing a report with the TEA staff, the person shall inform the certificate holder in writing that such a report will be filed and sanctions against his or her certificate may result as a consequence.

    (B) A person required to comply with this paragraph shall notify the governing body of the employing school district before filing the report with the TEA staff.

    (C) A superintendent or director of a school district shall complete an investigation of an educator that is based on reasonable cause to believe the educator may have engaged in misconduct described in paragraph (2)(A) of this subsection despite the educator's resignation from district employment before completion of the investigation; or

  (4) any other circumstances requiring a report under the Texas Education Code (TEC), §21.006.

(e) Pursuant to the TEC, §21.006(c) and (h), a report filed under subsection (d) of this section must include the name or names of any student or minor who is the victim of abuse or unlawful conduct by an educator and shall, at a minimum, describe in detail the factual circumstances requiring the report and identify the subject of the report by providing the following available information: name and any aliases; certificate number, if any, or social security number; last known mailing address and home and daytime phone numbers; all available contact information for any alleged victim or victims; and name or names and any available contact information of any relevant witnesses to the circumstances requiring the report. Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 United States Code, §1232g(a)(4), and the federal regulations interpreting it at 34 Code of Federal Regulations, §99.3, education records that are protected by FERPA must be records that are directly related to a student, and the term "education records" does not include records that relate to a school employee in his or her capacity as a school employee. A person who is required to file a report under subsection (d) of this section but fails to do so timely is subject to sanctions under this chapter.

(f) If a school district board of trustees learns of a failure by the superintendent of the district or a district principal to provide a notice required under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (TCCP), §15.27(a), (a-1), or (b), the board of trustees shall report the failure to the SBEC. If the governing body of a private primary or secondary school learns of a failure by the principal of the school to provide a notice required under the TCCP, §15.27(e), and the principal holds a certificate issued under the TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapter B, the governing body shall report the failure to the SBEC.

(g) The TEA staff shall not pursue sanctions against an educator who is alleged to have abandoned his or her TEC, Chapter 21, contract in violation of the TEC, §§21.105(c), 21.160(c), or 21.210(c), subject to the limitations imposed by the TEC, §21.4021(g), unless the board of trustees of the employing school district:

  (1) submits a written complaint to the TEA staff within 30 calendar days after the effective date of the educator's separation from employment from the school district. For purposes of this section, unless the school district and the educator have a written agreement to the contrary, the effective date of separation from employment is the first day that, without district permission, the educator fails to appear for work under the contract;

  (2) renders a finding that good cause did not exist under the TEC, §§21.105(c)(2), 21.160(c)(2), or 21.210(c)(2). This finding constitutes prima facie evidence of the educator's lack of good cause, but is not a conclusive determination; and

  (3) submits the following required attachments to the written complaint:

    (A) the educator's resignation letter, if any;

    (B) the agreement with the educator regarding the effective date of separation from employment, if any;

    (C) the educator's contract; and

    (D) school board meeting minutes indicating a finding of "no good cause" (if the board does not meet within 30 calendar days of the educator's separation from employment, the minutes may be submitted within 10 calendar days after the next board meeting).

(h) To efficiently administer and implement the SBEC's purpose under this chapter and the TEC, the TEA staff may set priorities for the investigation of complaints based on the severity and immediacy of the allegations and the likelihood of harm posed by the subject of the investigation. All cases accepted for investigation shall be assigned one of the following priorities.

  (1) Priority 1: conduct that may result in the placement of an investigative notice pursuant to the TEC, §21.007, and subsection (i) of this section because it presents a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a student or minor, parent of a student, fellow employee, or professional colleague, including, but not limited to, the following:

    (A) any conduct constituting a felony criminal offense;

    (B) indecent exposure;

    (C) public lewdness;

    (D) child abuse and/or neglect;

    (E) possession of a weapon on school property;

    (F) drug offenses occurring on school property;

    (G) sale to or making alcohol or other drugs available to a student or minor;

    (H) sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a student or minor;

    (I) certificate fraud;

    (J) state assessment testing violations;

    (K) deadly conduct; and

    (L) conduct that involves soliciting or engaging in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor.

  (2) Priority 2: any sanctionable conduct that is not Priority 1 conduct under paragraph (1) of this subsection. An investigative notice will not be placed on an educator's certification records on the basis of an allegation of Priority 2 conduct. The TEA staff may change a case's priority at any time based on information received. Priority 2 conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:

    (A) any conduct constituting a misdemeanor criminal offense or testing violation that is not Priority 1 conduct;

    (B) contract abandonment; and

    (C) code of ethics violations that do not constitute Priority 1 conduct.

(i) After accepting a case for investigation, if the alleged conduct indicates a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a student or minor, as described in subsection (h)(1) of this section, the TEA staff shall immediately place an investigative notice on the certificate holder's certification records stating that the certificate holder is currently under investigation. The placement of such an investigative notice must follow the procedures set forth in subsection (j)(1) of this section. After accepting a case for investigation, if the alleged conduct indicates a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a parent of a student, fellow employee, or professional colleague, as described in subsection (h)(1) of this section, the TEA staff may place an investigative notice on the certificate holder's certification records stating that the certificate holder is currently under investigation. The placement of an investigative notice must follow the procedures set forth in subsection (j)(2) of this section.

(j) The following procedures must be followed for placing an investigative notice on the educator's certification records.

  (1) At the time of placing an investigative notice on an educator's certification records for alleged conduct that indicates a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a student or minor, the TEA staff shall serve the certificate holder with a letter informing the educator of the investigation and the basis of the complaint.

    (A) Within ten calendar days of placing an investigative notice on the educator's certification records, the letter notifying the certificate holder of the investigation shall be mailed to the address provided to the TEA staff pursuant to the requirements set forth in §230.91 of this title (relating to Procedures in General).

    (B) The letter notifying the certificate holder of the investigation shall include a statement of the alleged conduct, which forms the basis for the investigative notice, and shall provide the certificate holder the opportunity to show cause within ten calendar days why the notice should be removed from the educator's certification records.

  (2) Prior to placing an investigative notice on an educator's certification records for alleged conduct that indicates a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a parent of a student, fellow employee, or professional colleague, as described in subsection (h)(1) of this section, the TEA staff shall serve the certificate holder with a letter informing the educator of the investigation and the basis of the complaint.

    (A) At least ten calendar days before placing an investigative notice on the educator's certification records, the letter notifying the certificate holder of the investigation shall be mailed to the address provided to the TEA staff pursuant to the requirements set forth in §230.91 of this title.

    (B) The letter notifying the certificate holder of the investigation shall include a statement of the alleged conduct, which forms the basis for the investigative notice, and shall provide the certificate holder the opportunity to show cause within ten calendar days why the notice should not be placed on the educator's certification records.

  (3) The TEA staff shall determine whether or not to remove or place an investigative notice on the educator's certification records, taking into account the educator's response, if any, to the letter notifying the certificate holder of the investigation.

(k) An investigative notice is subject to the following time limits.

  (1) An investigative notice may remain on the certification records of a certificate holder for a period not to exceed 240 calendar days.

  (2) The TEA staff may toll this time limit if information is received indicating that there is a pending criminal matter related to the alleged act of misconduct that gives rise to the investigative notice. For purposes of this subsection, a criminal matter includes an arrest, an investigation, or a prosecution by a criminal law enforcement agency. Upon receiving notice that the criminal matter has been resolved the tolling period shall end. As part of its procedure, the TEA staff will attempt to make bimonthly (once every two months) contact with a law enforcement agency where a criminal investigation is pending to determine whether Cont'd...

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