Legal Board Question of the Month

December 2019

Question: Parent Contributing to Non-Attendance/Truant Conduct question – The school has a policy that if a student is late 15 minutes or more late to school/class it’s considered a LOSIT (Loss of Significant Instructional Time). Would this be considered a part of a day? I know if a student is late to school or class it’s a tardy. Based off the law can the school district use this LOSIT as part of the tenth absence within the six month period? Again this is the District’s policy.

Answer: School district policy doesn’t impact Texas law. This question was recently answered, and can be found by searching the board for the word tardies.

In a 1993 opinion, the attorney general concluded that absences generally do not include tardiness to class, especially if the student is present on the campus but late to class. The particular circumstances of a child’s tardiness on a certain day may be sufficiently egregious to constitute an absence, but school districts should not routinely classify each instance of tardiness as an absence for purposes of truancy. (Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. DM-200 (1993)). This would also apply to parent contributing to nonattendance cases.

Also note that the court should not be involved in determining which truancy cases a prosecutor should file. If and when a case is filed, the court’s role is to make a determination on that case.

Update on Eviction Default Judgment Case

Dear Judges:

This is an update of our post on The Docket on November 27, 2019 concerning the decision by the 68th District Court in Dallas County holding that default money judgments for back rent in an eviction case, where the citation was served by posting and mailing to the premises, are unconstitutional as a violation of due process.

The district court entered a final judgment in the case on December 20, 2019, which may be viewed here: Simmons v Jones.   An appeal filed by the Attorney General relating to jurisdictional issues is pending in the Fifth Court of Appeals.

The question you may have is whether you are legally required to follow the District Court’s decision and refuse to enter a default judgment for back rent in an eviction case where the citation was served by alternative service by posting and mailing. We believe the answer to this question is no. The 68th District Court’s decision is only binding with respect to the single plaintiff in that case and the court did not enter any injunctive relief directed to any justice court. We therefore believe you should continue to follow the existing law and procedure with respect to alternative service by posting and mailing as set forth in Rule 510.4(c) and Property Code § 24.0051(a).

If you have any questions or concerns about this case or how it affects application of eviction laws and procedures, you may discuss this matter with your county attorney.

We will continue to monitor these issues and keep you informed of any further developments.

Very truly yours,