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Legal Implications from the Legislative Session

November 03, 2017 Kristen Pham

What laws passed in the Legislative Session will impact risk management in public education? TASB Legal Services and TASB Risk Management Services helped answer this question during a Fund webinar.

Senate Bills and House Bills were passed relating to risk management hot topics such as cyberbullying, the use of cameras in special education classrooms, coverage for Career and Technology Education (CTE) students, cybersecurity, and more.

Student issues

Senate Bill (SB) 179 – Cyberbullying
SB 179 was initiated by the family of a 16-year-old student in the San Antonio area named David who was a victim of cyberbullying and ultimately lost his life to suicide. David’s family founded a nonprofit organization called David’s Legacy Foundation and helped create the bill (also known as David’s Law) in an effort to fight against cyberbullying. SB 179 clarifies Texas public schools’ authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus. The law included revisions to the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying, clarifies district jurisdiction for off-campus bullying, and provided for permissive District Alternative Education Program (DAEP) or expulsion for certain types of bullying. For more information, visit the David’s Law webpage.   

Special education

Senate Bill (SB) 1398 – Cameras
SB 1398 modifies requirements for cameras required in self-contained classrooms and other specified special education settings. School districts must acknowledge requests within seven days and mount cameras within 45 days. Once a camera is requested, the camera must operate for the remainder of the school year unless the parent or other requestor withdraws the request.

Senate Bill (SB) 2141 – Non-attorney Representatives
SB 2141 is a modification of an existing law that allows parents to rely on non-attorney representatives in special education due process hearings. Now, if the advocate is getting paid, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) must require to advocate to follow a voluntary code of ethics and professional conduct and have a written representation agreement with the family, which must include a process for resolving disputes.

Career and technical education

House Bill (HB) 639 – Liability Coverage for Career and Technology (CTE) Students
HB 639 authorizes school boards to obtain insurance coverage for students participating in Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs, granting them immunity from liability similar to volunteers at a school. If the board chooses to obtain this coverage, it is a requirement to notify parents. If you have a CTE program, it is important that staff in this program are aware of this coverage.

“This one is near and dear to my heart. The Fund was able to testify on this bill and help move it forward,” said TASB Risk Management Legal and Regulatory Affairs Director Paul Taylor.

If you already are a member of the Fund’s Liability program, this coverage is included at no additional cost. However, your contracts may ask for other types of coverage that is not currently available through the Fund.  If you need guidance on finding additional insurance, you can contact the Fund. 

Senate Bill (SB) 22 – P-Tech (Pathways in Technology Early College High School)
SB 22 allows districts to partner with higher education, giving high school students the ability to obtain industry certification. It has very similar provisions as HB 639.

House Bill (HB) 2010 – Workplace Safety
With HB 2010, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is making workplace safety training information available to districts for use in student curriculum. The TEA will soon have information available about this.

Cyber security

House Bill (HB) 2087 – Student Data Privacy
HB 2087 was a result of an effort to protect student data privacy online at the state level. It prohibits the use of data gained from student use of an educational software product to generate advertising or create a student profile for the purpose of making money through advertising.

Senate Bill (SB) 1861 – Computer Network Security
SB 1861 creates an exception to the Public Information Act allowing school districts to keep records confidential if they relate to computer security including efforts to prevent, detect, investigate, or mitigate a computer security incident. The bill does not affect notification requirements related to a breach of system security.

Senate Bill (SB) 564 – Closed Meeting Exception for Network Security
SB 564 allows the school board to meet in a closed session to discuss cyber security.

Note that the Fund includes Privacy & Information Security coverage for Property and Liability members at no additional cost. The Fund partners with Beazley, a premiere provider of information security and data breach response services. If you are a member of these programs, it is important to make your IT personnel and other key staff involved in handling cyber security issues aware of this coverage.

Transportation

Senate Bill (SB) 693 – Seatbelts
Under SB 693, there is a requirement for purchased school buses that are model year 2018 or later and chartered buses to have three-point seat belts after the effective date of this bill. Such seat belts are not required if the school board determines that the district's budget does not permit purchasing buses equipped with the seat belts in a public meeting. Districts who ordered 2018 buses before the law was written are working to comply with this new law and may seek advice from their local school attorneys.

Weapons

Senate Bill (SB) 1566 – Employees and Handguns
SB 1566 includes a provision allowing school employees to park on school property with a concealed handgun. With this change, any person who is licensed to carry a handgun may park on school property. The firearm has to be locked in the vehicle and outside of plain view.

House Bill (HB) 435 – Handgun License Laws
HB 435 adds to the list of people who are exempt from the general prohibition on carrying a firearm into a school building, to a location where a school activity is taking place, or on a school vehicle to include attorney generals, assistant attorney generals, and U.S. attorneys. The bill also prohibits criminal trespass warning signs from being located in places that are not covered by Texas Penal Code restrictions.

“Make sure the signs are at the entrance as opposed to on the perimeter,” TASB Legal Services Director Joy Baskin said.

Other provisions under this law include that volunteer emergency services personnel have a defense to trespass and the Texas Penal Code location restrictions if they are engaged in emergency services.

Personnel

Senate Bill (SB) 7 – Improper Relationships
SB 7 expands crime of improper relationship between the educator and student and crime of online solicitation of a minor. With this law, there is a potential loss of Teacher Retirement System (TRS) benefits for conviction of certain felonies. These felonies include sexual abuse, sexual assault, or inappropriate relationships. This bill also requires pre-employment affidavits for applicants for certain positions. These affidavits and a related FAQ memo are available on TASB School Law eSource.

Visitors on campus

Senate Bill (SB) 1553 – Sex Offenders and Exclusion from Property
SB 1553 adds a requirement for registered sex offenders to inform administrators if they are going to be on school property during hours of operation. In addition, this bill allows school administrators to eject someone who refuses to leave school property if the person is either presenting a risk of harm or acting inappropriately after receiving a warning.

House Bill (HB) 332 – Security of Polling Sites
HB 332 requires adding polling sites to districts’ multi-hazard Emergency Operation Plans (EOP). Districts may consult, but do not have to hire, additional law enforcement.

All of these laws are related to school risk management and should be considered when revising policy and practices.

“We bring this to you in hopes to help you incorporate the new laws into your policy and practices,” said TASB Legal Services Director Joy Baskin.

This information is based on a Fund Webinar presented on October 25 and led by TASB Legal Services Director Joy Baskin, TASB Lead Attorney Leslie Story, and TASB Risk Management Legal and Regulatory Affairs Director Paul Taylor.

If you are a Fund Member interested in listening to the recorded version of this webinar, contact TASB Risk Management Member Solutions. For more information about these laws, contact TASB Legal Services at 800.580.5345 or TASB Risk Management Legal and Regulatory Affairs at 512.467.3663. TASB Legal Services also has a legislative summary document available at no cost to TASB members.