Teacher of the Year, Principal of the Year, Athletic Coach of the Year, etc. These lists are coveted and educators that get on such glorious lists are well deserving of the honor. However there is a new list that no one wants to get on and it is the Do-Not-Hire list!
As the name suggests, the Do-Not-Hire List is a list of educators whose teaching certificates have been revoked and are permanently barred from ever teaching in Texas public schools.
Who is on this list? Certified or non-certified educators who have been convicted of a Title V felony for crimes committed against anyone 18 years or younger or convicted of a sex crime. Certified or non-certified educators who have been found to have committed a priority-one offense i.e. endangered student safety, abuse of a student/minor or involvement in/solicitation of a romantic relation with a student/minor.
While the Do-No-Hire registry was rolled out early 2020, it came as no surprise to many education law practitioners because for a long time, Texas almost topped the national list for improper teacher-student relationships. While the Texas legislature worked hard to reduce our national notoriety, the impropriety remained, festered and recycled to the point where it was called “Passing The Trash”. Passing-The-Trash refers to the phenomenon where a teacher who was terminated from a district for one of the above mentioned offenses was able to go to another school district to perpetuate the same acts for which they were initially let go.
The Do-No-Hire list was therefore born out of the need to once and for all “end-the-trash”. Educators who engage in inappropriate relationships with students, who possess criminal histories that places students at risk or who engage in inappropriate relationships are now placed on this List and forever barred from ever working in Texas public schools.
The legal backing for the Do-No-Hire list can be found in newly added Section 22.092 of the Texas Education Code. The new law expands the powers of the State Board For Educator Certification (SBEC) and Texas Education Agency (TEA) to investigate and prosecute more educators.
Prior to the new law, SBEC and TEA had no investigative or prosecutorial jurisdiction over non-certified educators. However, with the passing of the new law, SBEC is now able to investigate non-certified educators in public schools and certain educators in private schools.
The new law expands SBEC’s reach into charter and private schools such that these schools who were mostly exempt from SBEC’s jurisdiction, must now report to SBEC an educator’s criminal record, or if the educator resigned or was terminated upon evidence of an unlawful act or sexual contact with a student. SBEC is now able to take disciplinary actions against certified educators in private and charter schools but not against non-certified educators.
The new law further underscores the reporting obligation of school districts and imposes stronger sanctions for non-compliance. A principal must now report to the superintendent within 7 business days of learning that an educator was terminated or resigned . The superintendent must thereafter make a report to TEA within 7 days of knowing that an educator resigned or was terminated. A school district, principal, or superintendent who refuses or neglects to report such an educator is liable to SBEC sanctions, administrative fees and criminal charges if there was an intent to conceal.
Even though an educator resigned or was terminated in lieu of misbehavior, the law requires school districts to conduct an investigation and report its findings to TEA if it determined that the educator committed the offense.
So what does the new law mean for certified, non-certified educators, private school and charter school educators? The new law is expansive and now covers the majority of educators in Texas regardless of whether you are certified, non-certified, public or private school teacher. And because the law imposes stringent reporting requirements and penalties for non-reporting, we forsee an upsurge in cases filed against educators.