I’m sitting here at midnight working on a Texas Education Agency filing for the parents of a student who was bullied, harassed, humiliated, and discriminated against by several coaches at Prosper Independent School District.
The school did nothing. The school board did nothing. And now the TEA is doing nothing.
The administrative law judge assigned to the case has said that the case should be dismissed because the TEA does not have jurisdiction over situations where a school district violates its own policies or how they handle their grievance procedures. This is the exact situation I faced in 2022 when I appealed my own grievance to the TEA.
At the time, I was shocked to learn that the TEA has jurisdiction over very little when it comes to oversight of ISDs, and that it does everything it can to try to avoid hearing grievances on their merits.
Below is what I filed with the TEA just before my case was dismissed. Sadly, here we are a year later and nothing has changed. And unless our Legislature passes a bill to strengthen the grievance procedures or create an ombudsman for grievances, nothing will change a year from now, either.
In my situation, Prosper ISD actually made the argument that I needed to file a new grievance to address how they handled the first grievance before I could then appeal that issue to the TEA.
LOL, what? Were they suddenly going to decide that they got it wrong the first time?
Until now, I haven’t shared what I wrote to the TEA with many people. But more than a year later, with other parents facing the same issues and our legislators dropping the ball to fix it, it’s time.
Below is my near complete filing with the TEA, just before my case was dismissed.
“The king gets to decide when the king gets sued.”
— Jeff Crownover, Prosper ISD Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, at a Prosper University committee meeting on October 12, 2021
There is perhaps no other way to describe the challenges facing concerned parents of public school students today than by referring to the words of Prosper ISD’s own General Counsel.
School boards and administrators act with impunity because they can. They know that there is very little anyone can do to challenge them, so they act accordingly. The actions taken with respect to Petitioner’s grievance are just another example in a long line of school board and district abuses for which there will never be any relief.
The fact that the TEA has no authority over a school district even when the district violates its own grievance policy is patently insane, and Petitioner will do everything in her power going forward to change this absurd reality. And the assertion that parents like Petitioner must first file a new grievance about how a school board handled a grievance, and that said grievance will be decided by the same group of individuals who did whatever they wanted the first time around, is laughable.
Are these school boards somehow supposed to magically realize that they acted improperly? Are they supposed to all of a sudden decide that their own grievance procedure is ridiculous on its face and provides parents, students, and teachers who try to use it with no due process? Are they supposed to suddenly come to grips with the fact that a school board evaluating grievances against its own members and district staff is nothing more than the fox guarding the henhouse?
Of course not. Why would they? After all, they believe they are legally untouchable.
These individuals have no courage. They have no integrity. But Petitioner and other taxpayers in Prosper ISD are somehow supposed to trust that they will decide grievances in a fair and objective manner?
The reality is that the Prosper ISD’s grievance policy, and even the petition for review process, is designed to frustrate, confuse, intimidate, and wear down parents who just want accountability and transparency. This is really not a tough ask.
We give our schools tremendous influence over our children’s lives. We are funding them with our own tax dollars. But increasingly, more often our “leaders” have proven they cannot be trusted. And in every aspect of our reality in Prosper ISD, parents are constantly met with roadblocks, non-answers, and pushback.
We are expected to be lulled into submission and contentment by fancy buildings and meaningless awards given to our superintendent. We are told that if we do not stop raising concerns, all the good teachers will leave.
Perhaps our school board and District administration should focus on fixing the issues that are causing the concerns in the first place, instead of trying to silence parents who voice them.
Petitioner is grateful to the administrative law judge for the opportunity to re-plead her Petition for Review. Ultimately, however, Petitioner should not be forced to spend hours upon hours poring over tens of thousands of pages of the Texas Education Code to try to find a section to wedge her complaint into before the TEA can hear it.
The TEA has jurisdiction over public schools and it should have jurisdiction to hear complaints related to the running of those schools, which includes the grievance process.
Unfortunately, the deck is stacked against parents, students, and teachers who raise concerns. The house has all the cards. And so long as this is the reality, school districts like Prosper will continue to do whatever they want.
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