This is how TEA conducts a special accreditation investigation

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - Officials at the Texas Education Agency said Wednesday they have launched a special accreditation investigation of the Houston Independent School District Board.

According to the TEA website, the agency is granted authority to conduct these types of investigations, referred to as SAI, by the Texas Education Code. The agency’s Special Investigations Unit is responsible for these investigations.

According to the website:

“The mission of the SIU is to use a variety of investigative approaches to gather evidence related to alleged wrongdoing including but not limited to potential violations of state or federal law, rules and regulations, policies and procedures, and other abuses that may negatively impact a school district or charter school.

“Investigations will focus on obtaining sufficient factual evidence to determine whether certain enforcement actions should be taken against the district or charter school.”

Here’s a step-by-step look at the procedure for this type of investigation as outlined on TEA’s website.

Step 1: Initial review

The TEA’s Complaints Management Division receives a complaint and conducts an initial review. The findings of that review are referred to the commissioner of education or the commissioner’s designee for final approval to launch an SAI.

Step 2: Notification

Written notice of the SAI is sent to the superintendent and board president of the district or charter school that is being investigated. The notice must include the following: 

  • The statement of purpose, mission, and authority of the SIU.
  • The allegations or matters under investigation.
  • A copy of these procedures.
  • Requests for information.
  • Contact information for the investigators assigned to the investigation.

Step 3: Investigation

An investigative plan is developed. It can include a request for records and data from the school district or charter school, interviews, the scheduling of an on-site investigation and communication with agencies outside of TEA. This plan can be revised at any time.

After the plan is created, the on-site investigation begins. Procedures call for a “thorough investigation of the allegations.” This is when records and data can be reviewed and interviews are conducted. 

Any new documents that are found during the course of the investigation can also be reviewed.

Step 4: Reports

A preliminary report is issued when the SAI is completed. It will include the “findings of fact and explain why the allegation is or is not substantiated.” It will also include recommendations for corrective or disciplinary actions.

The preliminary report will also include a deadline by which the school district, charter school or a person found to have committed a violation must submit a written request for an informal review of the findings.

A final report is issued after the informal review is complete. This report is sent to not only the school district or anyone who committed a violation, but also the governor’s office and any related legislative committee.

If no violations are found, the preliminary report can be issued as the final report.

Step 5: Information is released

Investigators can forward any findings and conclusions to relevant state and federal agencies. If criminal violations are found, the findings will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Information can also be released to the media at this stage.

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