New Laws Impact Educators Regarding Foster Students: How Can Lawyers Help?


Educators, families and lawyers working together can help ensure that a foster child’s educational environment is welcoming, safe and productive. There are nearly 30,000 Texas foster children, many of whom go to school. Many of these children will need an Individual Education Program (IEP), a plan designed to meet the needs of students with physical or learning disabilities. These specially adapted supports will help each child to make the maximum progress possible. Due to many confidentiality and confidentiality issues and other legal requirements, the involvement of a lawyer – whether that lawyer represents the school or the child – may be necessary to ensure access to these services. Teachers can find themselves at a moral crossroads like never before, based on new Texas and federal legislation.

New legislation to make teachers and administrators aware of:

  1. The changes to the Texas Education Code were incorporated into House Bill 3979. Social studies courses must address a list of foundational documents that Texas social science students must be taught, including the Constitution of the United States, federalist documents and some of the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, however:
    1. No teacher can be compelled by the policy of a state agency, school district, open enrollment charter school, or school administration to “discuss current affairs. or widely debated and currently controversial public policy or social affairs issues ”.
    2. While teachers discuss current affairs, teachers are mandated by the new law to explore these issues from various angles.
    3. Students will be prohibited from obtaining credits or additional credits due to their participation in protests that include political activism or lobbying elected officials on a particular issue. Will that stand up to scrutiny of the First Amendment?
  1. The changes to Chapter 107 of the Texas Family Code mean that attorneys are permanent students: attorneys must familiarize themselves with a minimum of three hours of study related to trauma and the impact of trauma on children in the foster family placement system. Texas Family Code Chapter 107.004 (b-1) (2) – (b-4) has been added to require attorneys who wish to be on a judge’s roster for potential court appointments as that ad litem in child protection proceedings must complete a minimum of three hours of trauma training dealing with:

(1) the symptoms of trauma and the impact the trauma has on a child, including how the trauma may affect a child’s development, emotions, memories, behavior and decision-making;

(2) attachment and how a lack of attachment can affect a child;

(3) the role that trauma-informed care and services may have in a child’s ability to relate, feel safe, and regulate the child’s emotions to help strengthen their resilience and overcome the effects of trauma and negative childhood experiences;

(4) the importance of screening for trauma in children and the risk of mislabelling; and the inappropriate treatment of children without proper screening, including the risks and benefits associated with the use of psychotropic drugs;

(5) the potential for re-traumatization of children under the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services; and

(6) the availability of:

(A) non-pharmacological, research-based, trauma-informed interventions; and

(B) oversight of the Department of Family and Protective Services, for: (i) trauma-informed care; and

(ii) trauma-informed mental and behavioral health services.

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