GRA(LEGAL) - RELATIONS WITH GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES: STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES
Note: The following legal provisions address the notification requirements and right of access to students when DFPS investigates reports of abuse and neglect at school. For additional legal provisions addressing reporting child abuse and neglect and investigations generally, see FFG.
Child Protective Investigations
A Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect under Family Code Chapter 261 may include an interview and examination of the subject child, which may be conducted at any reasonable time and place, including the child's school. A school official may not deny the request of an investigator, investigating a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, to interview, at school, a student who is an alleged victim. A school official may not condition granting the request on a requirement that school personnel, such as a counselor, attend the interview. Family Code 261.302(a), (b); Atty. Gen. Op. DM-476 (1998)
A person that has confidential locating or identifying information regarding a family that is the subject of an investigation under Family Code Chapter 261 shall release that information to DFPS on request. The release of information to DFPS by a person is not subject to Government Code 552.352 or any other law providing liability for the release of confidential information. Family Code 261.303(e)
On receipt of a report of alleged or suspected child abuse or neglect in a public school, DFPS shall perform an investigation as provided by Family Code Chapter 261 and the rules adopted thereunder.
The Special Investigations program (SI) of the Child Protective Investigations division (CPI) of DFPS investigates allegations of abuse or neglect of a child by school personnel or volunteers in a school setting.
Family Code 261.406(a); 40 TAC 707.597–.625
"School personnel and volunteers" means persons who have access to children in a school setting and are providing services to or caring for the children. School personnel include but are not limited to school employees, contractors, school volunteers, school bus drivers, school cafeteria staff, and school custodians.
"School setting" means the physical location of a child's school or of an event sponsored or approved by the child's school, or any other location where the child is in the care, custody, or control of school personnel in their official capacity, including transportation services. This does not include:
- School settings involving only children in facilities regulated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) when HHSC contracts with the local school district to provide education services; or
- School settings that are a part of child care operations regulated by the Child Care Licensing division of HHSC.
40 TAC 707.605(6)–(7)
Notice to School Personnel
Prior to conducting an investigation of school personnel or volunteers, SI shall notify the school principal (or the principal's supervisor if the school principal is an alleged perpetrator) of the fact that a report has been assigned for investigation, the nature of the allegations contained in the report, and the date and time SI plans to visit the school campus to begin the investigation.
SI must also orally notify the superintendent about the investigation.
SI must request that the school personnel notified of the investigation not alert the alleged perpetrator or others regarding the report until SI has had an opportunity to interview the alleged perpetrator.
Family Code 261.105(d); 40 TAC 707.615
No Interference with Investigation
School officials or other persons related to the school setting may not interfere with an investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect conducted by DFPS.
Interviews on School Premises
Interviews and examinations in a school investigation may take place on or off the school premises, as deemed appropriate by SI, pursuant to all applicable standards. SI will notify appropriate school personnel prior to conducting an interview or visual inspection on school premises.
Presence of School Personnel
SI may request that school personnel or volunteers not be present during the interview or visual inspection of an alleged victim, an alleged perpetrator, an adult or child witness, or any other person who may have information relevant to the investigation if the investigator determines that:
- The presence of school personnel or volunteers would compromise the integrity of the investigation; or
- A better interview or examination of the child would result without school personnel or volunteers being present.
Family Code 261.303(a); 40 TAC 707.619(a)
Report of Findings
After the completion of an investigation, SI must provide a report of the investigation, redacted to remove the identity of the reporter, to the Texas Education Agency (Director of Education Investigations) for an investigation concerning an employee of the district. On request, SI shall provide a redacted copy of the report to the following:
- State Board for Educator Certification;
- The president of the school board;
- The superintendent; and
- The school principal, unless the principal is the alleged perpetrator.
SI is not required to provide notice to a school official if it administratively closes a report of abuse or neglect prior to notifying school officials that DFPS received a report of abuse or neglect in the school setting.
Family Code 261.406(b); 40 TAC 707.623
Students Taken into Custody
A child may be taken into custody under Family Code Title 3 (Juvenile Justice Code):
- Pursuant to an order of the juvenile court.
- Pursuant to the laws of arrest.
- By a law enforcement officer, including a school district peace officer, if there is probable cause to believe the student has engaged in a criminal violation, delinquent conduct, conduct indicating a need for supervision, or conduct that violates a condition of probation.
- By a probation officer, if there is probable cause to believe the student has violated a condition of probation or a condition of release.
- Pursuant to a directive to apprehend issued by a juvenile court.
- By a law enforcement officer, to take the child's fingerprints or photograph, as set forth at Family Code 58.0021.
Family Code 52.01(a), 58.0021
In addition, a child may be taken into custody without a court order:
- By an authorized representative of the DFPS, a law enforcement officer, or a juvenile probation officer under the conditions set out in Family Code 262.104, relating to the student's physical health or safety; or
- As otherwise provided by Family Code Chapter 262 (Suit by Governmental Entity to Protect Health and Safety of Child).
Family Code Ch. 262
Students in Custody
A person taking a child into custody may, if school is in session and the child is a student, bring the child to the campus to which the child is assigned if the principal, the principal's designee, or a peace officer assigned to the campus agrees to assume responsibility for the child for the remainder of the school day. Family Code 52.02(a)(7