In the 2014 movie "Whiplash," a jazz band instructor uses over-the-top, abusive methods in an attempt to provoke his students to achieve greatness. He subjects his protégé drummer to public humiliation and even throws chairs at the student. (The instructor is eventually fired for using such tactics.)

Obviously TCTA members would never use such techniques! But a bill passed in the 2019 session raises questions, not yet answered, about what actions might run afoul of a new state law that prohibits “aversive techniques.”

SB 712, and the nearly identical HB 3630, are aimed at eliminating methods of addressing student behavior that would be physically or emotionally harmful to the student. Some aspects address unusual and obviously problematic methods. The bills prohibit a technique that, for example, “impairs the student’s breathing” or “is likely to cause pain through the use of electric shock.”

Some provisions are less clear. A teacher cannot employ a method that “denies adequate sleep, air, food, water, shelter, bedding, physical comfort, supervision, or access to a restroom facility.” What if a teacher sends a misbehaving student out in the hallway? Does this deny supervision? Does the answer change if there is a hall monitor, or if the classroom door is left open so the teacher can see the student?

The bill prohibits a technique that “ridicules or demeans the student in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning or mental health of the student or constitutes verbal abuse.” What if the theater teacher calls out a student for not learning her lines? If the student is particularly sensitive and gets her feelings hurt, was this demeaning, or verbal abuse?

Unfortunately, in the absence of further guidance or rulings on litigation, these remain gray areas. But teachers should be very aware of this new law and carefully consider their disciplinary methods.

As always, if you are a TCTA member, please call the TCTA legal department at 888-879-8282 if you have any questions about this topic.
Early voting starts Monday, 2 props impact education

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 21, and ends Friday, Nov. 1, ahead of the Nov. 5 elections. Ten propositions to amend the Texas Constitution are on the ballot statewide. Two items could have impact on public education funding:
  • Proposition 4 would prohibit the Texas Legislature from establishing a personal income tax. Approval by Texas voters already is required to implement an income tax, and the current version earmarks that money for education and property tax relief. Prop 4 removes this requirement.
  • Proposition 7 would increase from $300 million to $600 million the amount the General Land Office could distribute to the Available School Fund each year.

Many municipalities and school boards also have seats up for election and/or bond propositions. Click here to see everything on the ballot in your area.
Release of secret recording rocks House

After a generally harmonious and productive 2019 legislative session, the Texas House has been rocked by revelations of a secret recording of a meeting between Michael Quinn Sullivan (a controversial conservative activist and CEO of Empower Texans), House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lubbock Representative Dustin Burrows. During the meeting, Bonnen crudely insulted some House members, and — more problematically — asked Sullivan to help fund opposition to 10 Republican House members in the 2020 elections.

TCTA and the education community are paying close attention to this situation. Several of the 10 Republicans targeted by Bonnen are among the moderate, education-friendly faction of the party. The recording also includes a discussion of removing payroll deduction of association dues to thwart "teachers' unions."

Parents sue after child with disabilities is urged to return to special class

Parents filed a lawsuit against a school district, alleging that it failed to meet its obligations to provide a free and appropriate public education to their child because it did not place the child in the least restrictive environment appropriate for his needs. After successfully completing a special program in first grade, the child was moved to a regular classroom with accommodations. In third grade, the student started to struggle. An ARD committee recommended he be returned to the special education program. The parents objected and filed a complaint.

Bahorich leaving State Board of Education when term ends

State Board of Education Member Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, will not seek re-election to the board in 2020. First elected in 2012, she served as chairwoman since 2015, after being appointed to the role by Gov. Greg Abbott. Bahorich called her tenure “exceptio nally challenging and gratifying." Keven Ellis, R-Lufkin, was appointed by Abbott to replace Bahorich as SBOE chair and was sworn in on Sept. 27.
Students can retake portions of the ACT starting next year

Beginning in September 2020, students taking the ACT for college admissions will be able to retake portions of the exam to improve their scores. Officials said ACT Section Retesting will help students focus study efforts on individual subjects (English, math, reading, science or writing) without having to study for the entire test again. Click here to learn more.
You can earn $25 for every two eligible first-time active members you recruit. Click here for Take 2/Make $25 program details.
  • October is Bullying Prevention Month.
  • The TASA Texas Teacher of the Year luncheon is Oct. 25 in Austin.
  • Oct. 31 is Halloween.
  • Daylight Saving Time ends Nov. 3.
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