Q: I know there were a lot of bills passed this legislative session that will impact districts. Are there any changes relating to SBEC reporting requirements?
A: Yes! Senate Bill 1476 was signed into law on June 14, 2019 and went into effect immediately. SB 1476 amended Section 21.006 of the Texas Education Code relating to reporting requirements to the State Board of Educator Certification.
As written, the educator reporting statute requires a superintendent to notify the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) when the superintendent receives notification of an employee’s reported criminal history, or when an employee resigns or is terminated and “there exists evidence that [the educator] committed one of the acts specified in paragraph (2) of this subsection.” The “acts” referred to include, specifically, sexual or physical abuse of a student or minor or having engaged in any other illegal conduct with a student or minor. The report to SBEC must be made by the superintendent “not later than the seventh business day” after the triggering event (e.g. criminal history, resignation, termination). Of particular importance here is the resignation scenario. As neither the employee’s resignation, nor the notice to SBEC eliminate a superintendent’s obligation to complete the investigation, a possibility exists that the investigation will result in a “no finding” despite the existence of at least some “evidence” early on, seemingly requiring a report. SB 1476 was intended, therefore, to clarify reporting obligations when “evidence exists” initially, but ultimately insufficient to support a finding of sexual or physical abuse of a student or minor, or other illegal conduct between an educator and a minor.
The amendment to Section 21.006 clarifies that a superintendent is not required to notify SBEC or file a report if the superintendent: “(1) completes an investigation into an educator’s alleged incident of misconduct described by Subsection (b)(2)(A) or (A-1) before the educator’s termination of employment or resignation; and (2) determines the educator did not engage in the alleged incident of misconduct described by Subsection (b)(2)(A) or (A-1).” Tex. Educ. Code §21.006(c-2). Of course, the application of this new provision and determination that no report is required will necessitate completion of the superintendent’s investigation within the seven day deadline. Depending upon the allegations, this timeline may not be plausible. In such a circumstance, best practice would be for the superintendent to make the report within the 7 days and then send a follow-up to SBEC after conclusion of the investigation should the employee be exonerated. Prior to reporting, as in all instances, a superintendent must first notify both the employee and the school board of the superintendent’s intent to report.
As the Commissioner promulgates regulations, we will provide updates. In the interim, contact your school district’s attorney with questions.