A teacher filed a grievance regarding a provision in her district’s appraisal policy that penalized teachers for taking leave. The policy stated that 0 absences would receive a “distinguished” rating, 2 absences would receive an “accomplished” rating, 5 absences would receive a “proficient” rating, 6-10 absences would receive a “developing” rating, and more than 10 absences would result in a rating of “improvement needed." Under the policy, extenuating circumstances could be taken into consideration by campus principals. The school district board of trustees denied the grievance and the teacher appealed to the commissioner of education.

The commissioner held that the policy violates the law because it makes leave difficult to take. Teachers are given five days of personal leave every year under state law. Texas decided that public schools are improved when school employees have a minimum of five leave days per year and gave teachers leave days so that teachers could use them. According to the commissioner, punishing teachers for legitimately using the leave they are given by statute makes using that leave difficult and therefore, violates the law. Additionally, school districts are not permitted under the law to restrict the purposes for which leave may be used. Therefore, principals may not lawfully consider “extenuating circumstances” because that would constitute an inquiry into why the leave was taken.