Information for Child Custody Matters
in Beaumont ISD
The Beaumont Independent School District is committed to partnering with parents to provide the best overall educational experience for their student(s). When both parents are in agreement about educational decisions, confusion and disputes are typically not common. However, with the increase of the non-traditional family structure and battles over parental rights, school officials are sometimes faced with having to decide which adults in a student’s life have legal rights to (1) enroll a student, (2) access the student’s school records, (3) pick up the student from school, (4) withdraw the student and other issues. This reference is provided as a general informational guide to handling child custody matters in Beaumont ISD.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or a solicitation.
A. PARENTS VS. NON-PARENTS
In general, when there is no court order, a parent has a greater right to possession of a child than a non-parent. It does not matter whether the non-parent is a grandparent, step-parent, assumed father, aunt, other relative or family friend, and may not even matter whether the other parent has given the non-parent permission to have possession of the child. Obviously, this could lead to some very unpleasant events when one parent leaves a child with a non-parent, and the other parent shows up to the school and demands to take the child.
Please do not ask the school district to mediate or resolve any dispute in regard to this civil matter. If there is no legal order on file that outlines everyone’s rights and responsibilities, the district will abide by the rights outlined in the Texas Family Code §153.071. If there is a dispute among parents and non-parents, it may be best to consult legal counsel for assistance.
Grandparents Rights -
The relationship between children and their grandparents is important and generally may be in the best interest of the children. Historically in Texas, Grandparents have stepped in to fill the void in care and nurturing caused by divorce separation, drug and alcohol abuse, or mental illness of the biological parents. Grandparents can play and important and supporting role to promote stability in the lives of children whose families are in deep conflict. However, without a legal court order signed by a judge, grandparents rights are limited in gaining access to or making decisions on behalf of their grandchildren.
In the case of Troxel v. Granville, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause, "protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children." Thus, as a grandparent your "possession and access" (visitation and custody) rights are limited. In other words, grandparents do not have a constitutional right to see their grandchildren.
If the child is in immediate danger, you should call 911 or child protective services. Otherwise, it is best to try to work things out with your family members. If you are cannot agree, then you should talk to an attorney.
B. PARENTAL RIGHTS (in general, when there is no court order)
As a general presumption, all parents (whether biological or adopted) and legal guardians (legal guardianship as established by a court order) in BISD have the rights outlined in the Texas Family Code §153.071, unless restricted by court order. The school district will recognize and honor these rights as they exist for both parents unless directed otherwise by a court order or lawful directive.
- to receive information from any other conservator concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning health, education and welfare of the child; of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
- to consult a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
- to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
- to attend school activities;
- to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
- to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child, and
- to manage the estate of the child to the extent has been created by the parent or parent’s family.
*Note: Any court with appropriate jurisdiction has the authority to enter an order regarding custody of a child that is binding on the parties to the proceeding and enforceable throughout the United States through the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
C. LEGAL AUTHORITY TO MAKE EDUCATION DECISIONS
Parents who are married and “separated” but who have not filed for divorce in a court of proper jurisdiction, retain equal rights, privileges, duties, and power until some legal recourse is sought by one of the parents and a court enters an order signed by a judge specifying the parental rights. This remains true of unmarried parents who are the biological parents of the child/children in question and who are separated but have not filed for divorce. Prior to making any educational decisions related to a student, a parent and/or legal guardian must first establish the parent-child relationship exists. The two most common documents used to establish this relationship include a birth certificate and a legal court order.
1. Birth Certificate
A birth certificate is one form of documentation used to establish a parent-child relationship. If a person can produce a valid birth certificate for the student and identify him or herself via a government issued photo id as the named mother or father on the birth certificate, BISD recognizes he or she has the same rights as any other parent, even if the child is not living with them. The birth certificate is controlling, unless the school has on record a copy of a court order that either modifies the parent’s rights or terminates them completely, in which case the court order governs.
In situations where only one parent is on the child’s birth certificate, only that parent can make educational decisions or in certain instances, can authorize another individual to make educational decisions regarding the child. A person claiming to be the biological parent of a child, but who is not on the birth certificate is not entitled to either enroll or withdraw the child in the absence of a signed legal order. A person claiming to be a parent or legal guardian without recognized rights should establish his or her parental rights through the family court system.
2. Court Order/Legal Decree
A legal court order may also establish a parent-child relationship exists in order to make educational decisions regarding a child. An order is the direction or mandate of a judge or a court directing that something be done or that there is prohibition against some act. It is important to understand, an order is NOT a letter written by an attorney, a CPS child safety plan or a notification of an impending lawsuit or petition to the court to modify the parent-child relationship. While a petition is a formal written request to a court for a legal order of the court, it alone is not an actual order and is not controlling for the purposes of educational decisions.
Divorce Decree - Many times, the parent-child relationship is determined in a divorce decree. A divorce decree, if there are children of the marriage, must include a decision by the court regarding custody of the child/children. Generally, the divorce decree is combined with a custody order that identifies the child, establishes the primary residence of the child and the circumstances under which the parent or other person in parental relation may have access to the child. It may also include an order of support. The Beaumont ISD is bound by the laws of the State of Texas to honor these decrees regardless of either of the parent’s wishes if they vary from the divorce decree.
Legal Guardianship - Courts may also use an order to establish legal guardianship of student. A guardianship is a legal order that gives someone other than a child's parents (i.e. grandparents, older siblings, aunts or uncles) the right to make child care decisions and take care of the child. Although a legal guardianship does not terminate a parent's custody rights, it does grant the guardian many of the same rights and responsibilities of a parent in raising and caring for a child, including educational decisions. Again, only a court can grant an individual guardianship rights for a child.
D. ENROLLMENT, WITHDRAWAL, AND PARTICIPATION IN SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Issues of who may enroll withdraw, or pick-up the child will require an in-depth analysis of the rights, privileges, duties, and powers of each parent and/or legal guardian with respect to each child. Legal documentation is required to establish such rights when parents are divorced and/or rights of parents have been modified or restricted for educational purposes.
To be authorized to enroll a child, the person must be a biological or adoptive parent or the child’s legal guardian. In situations where only one parent is on the child’s birth certificate, only that person can enroll or withdraw the child or can authorize another individual to enroll or withdraw the child by power of attorney. A person claiming to be the biological parent of a child, but who is not on the birth certificate and who has no legal order naming the individual as a legal parent, is not entitled to either enroll or withdraw the child. A biological parent without recognized rights should establish his or her parental rights through the family court system.
The school enrollment form is a form used by the school district to gather pertinent about the student. However, the enrollment form does not determine the parental relationship. One of the most common situations involves one parent either requesting the school to not include information about the other parent on the enrollment form or simply refusing to provide the school with the other parent’s contact information. Texas Family Code, Section 153.073 specifically grants non-custodial parents the right to be designated on the child's records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency. This means that if one parent does not want the other parent’s information noted on the enrollment form, the school district cannot honor this request without a court order.
Participation in School Activities
While all parents (unless restricted by court order) have the right to participate in school activities, such participation must be consistent with school policy and procedure. While the District does welcome parents to be partners in the education process, it is imperative the integrity of instruction is preserved and disruptions to the learning environment are minimized. As such, an invitation is generally extended for specific school events and activities where parents can fully participate with their students. The school campus will not be used as a visitation site and as such, the campus principal will exercise discretion in granting requests for participation of attendance on campus. Further, unless required by court order, the school district has no obligation to inform one parent that the other parent has been on campus. Please do not ask that school staff report any participation in school activities by one parent to another parent.
Each parent (unless restricted by court order) has the right to consult with their child’s teacher regarding educational issues. The Parent Self-Serve online tool is the easiest and most convenient way to do so. All teachers have a conference period where appointments may be scheduled to meet with parents or visit by telephone. Please do not ask your child’s teacher NOT to talk with the child’s other parent. Unless restricted by court order, the teacher will respond to inquiries of both parents. Further, unless required by court order, the school district has no obligation to inform one parent that the other parent has consulted with the child’s teacher. Please do not ask that our educators report parent contact or communication.
Periods of Possession
The district’s general rule is that students are released only to those individuals identified on the emergency contact form or upon written directive by a judge. Students will be released consistent with the terms of the court order - that is, they will be released only to those person(s) identified in the order and only at such times required. Please do not be offended if we ask for identification prior to release. If the order allows for a parent to designate another competent adult to retrieve their child from school, such designation must be in writing and signed by the parent. The school district will not alter bus routes to transport students during times of possession, unless required to do so by the court order. Please do not ask that your child ride a different bus during times of possession.
Access To Records
When faced with question concerning a student’s education records, FERPA will apply. FERPA is the federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Parents have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. FERPA defines a parent as “a guardian, natural parent, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.” When a student with disability is involved, you must follow the requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to IDEA, a parent is (1) a natural or adoptive parent; (2) a guardian, but not the State if the child is a ward of the State; (3) a person acting in the place of a parent under a power-of-attorney, such as a grandparent or step-parent with whom the child lives or a person who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare; or (4) a surrogate parent who has been appointed in accordance with IDEA regulations. In some cases, a foster parent may act as the parent of a child with a disability.
Each parent (unless restricted by court order) has the right to access educational records of their child. Upon request, copies of records will be provided. Please do not ask that we deny requests by mom/dad for your child’s report card or other records. Unless restricted by court order, the district will provide access equally to both parents. Unless required by court order, the school district has no obligation to inform one parent that the other parent has requested education records. Please do not ask that we report requests for records.
To ensure the safety of students and avoid potential conflicts, the district prefers if the parent who enrolls the student is the parent who withdraws the child. When the parent who did not enroll the child comes to the school to withdraw the student, campus officials will provide a courtesy call to the enrolling parent to determine if there is any current order on file restricting the rights of the parent. The parent seeking to withdraw student must present a birth certificate or other legal order to establish the parent-child relationship and his or her rights. Other essential information will be required from the parent before releasing the child, including copy of a valid government issued photo id, current address, home/work number, and the name and address of the school where the child will be enrolled so that education records may be sent.
Note: While there may be no law prohibiting the non-enrolling parent from withdrawing the student, the school may not release the child if they feel unsure about the safety of the child or the identity of the person, hence prompting a call to district police and/or Child Protective Services before the withdrawal process may be complete.
E. COMPLIANCE WITH COURT ORDERS
At the time of enrollment, a copy of the most current signed divorce decree or other legal court order establishing the rights of each parent shall be provided to the campus principal. Any modifications to those orders shall be provided immediately upon issuance by the Court. Campus personnel will make their best efforts to interpret and comply with the terms of the orders affecting the parent child relationship. Again, the District is bound by the laws of the State of Texas to honor these decrees regardless of a parent’s wishes. Please do not ask school personnel to act inconsistent with a court order. It is the parent’s responsibility to seek modification of existing court orders when terms and conditions warrant. While it is commendable to provide the district with information concerning a petition, a petition is not a legal court order and therefore, not a controlling document. Without a signed court order, the district may not modify the rights of one or either parent based on another’s wishes.
The school may receive a copy of a legal protective order that prevents access to a child. A protective order is “any order or decree of a court whose purpose is to protect a person from further harassment or service of process or discovery.” If there is a protective order, the school should obtain a copy of the order from the student’s parent or legal guardian. The school principal must ensure that the school adheres to the terms of the protective order. The order may restrict a person from going within a certain number of feet of a childcare facility or school attended by a protected person (student). The order may also prohibit the release of certain information including the student’s address and the name of the school the student is attending. Certain information (i.e. home address, telephone number, and name of the school the student attends) is generally considered public information. When the school receives a copy of a protective order, the principal will work with office staff to ensure that the student's file is flagged for privacy on the database so that the information is not released in violation of the protective order.
Just as safety is paramount to you as parents, the safety and well-being of students is also Beaumont ISD’s number one concern. The district reserves the right to refuse to release a student and/or to contact law enforcement if at any time the circumstances reflect a health or safety concern for the child. The district also reserves the right to ban any person who causes a disruption or has no legitimate purpose for being on campus.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the
Office of Student Services to schedule an appointment
at 409-617-5109 or 409-617-5107.
Note: The Beaumont Independent School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, marital status or handicapping condition in its programs, services, activities, or employment practices as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. BISD is committed to providing a free and appropriate public education for all students.
Posted: July 03, 2015