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School Email      
School computers and individual school emails are like any other school property. The use of them is for school activities and performing your day-to-day duties as a teacher in that school district.

As a teacher, you need to be very careful what you use your school computer and email for. You should never forward an email that is of questionable nature or not related to your job. According to the Association attorney, if you receive questionable emails you should do one of two things: let your school district computer technician know about the emails so they can block the sender, or you should send an email to the sender asking them not to send these emails to your school email address. If you do not do one of these two things and just delete the emails, they can still be found in your computer and if you can not show evidence that you tried to stop the emails, you could have a problem. Do not download to your school computer, anything that is of a questionable nature. 

If you have any question dealing with this issue please call the Association office for clarification.
 

Trips & Equipment      
We are finding schools that have changed their rules dealing with out-of-state trips and the use of school equipment on those trips. Make sure you understand your school district’s rules dealing with out-of-state trips.

Many school districts have not changed anything; many do not allow out-of-state trips and never have. We have found two school districts that changed their rules and the teachers found out about the rule change after the trip. Those two schools have taken the stand that it is the teacher’s responsibility to know the rules. It is not, nor has it ever been, the Association’s intent to try and tell its members what they should and should not do. We just want to make each member aware of possible pitfalls.

When preparing for these trips, make sure your administration knows how you are going, what equipment you will be using and how the trip will be funded. Then if there is a problem, you are not in the boat alone, that administrator by their approval is in it with you.
 

Contracts      
Some terms to understand about contracts are Term and Probationary contracts, Reduction in force and the 45 Day Rule. 

Contract Types:
There are two types of teacher contracts in Texas: Term and Probationary. A Term Contract is very similar to a continuing contract. The school district must have just cause to not renew a term contract. The Probationary Contract is just that, probationary. A school can dismiss a teacher on a probationary contract for any reason they choose. The only recourse a teacher has if dismissed under a probationary contract is to ask for an audience with the school board to plead your case. You cannot be on a probationary contract at a school for more than four years. After four years they will either dismiss you or put you on a term contract. Remember, with any contract problem, if you sign or submit a letter of resignation before you call the Association, our lawyer cannot help you because you would have already resigned.

Reduction in force:
If your school tells you they are dismissing you for “reduction in force,” you should ask the school for a copy of their reduction in force policy. If your school does not have a policy, they cannot use reduction in force. Some schools will ask a teacher to resign but claim they are going to use reduction in force and that resigning will look better on their record. Reduction in force cannot hurt your record. It means there was not a problem with you, just that the school does not have enough money to fund your position. If you are released because of reduction in force and they fill your position, if you did not resign, you can have a case against that school. If you resign and they have claimed reduction in force and replace you, you have no recourse.

10/45 Day Rule:
If your school has not told you otherwise, and you are on a term or probationary contract, and it is within 10 days of the last day of instruction, you are automatically renewed. The only way you could lose your job after this date is by reduction in force or if you committed an act the school could dismiss you for. On the other hand, you cannot resign without the schools blessing within 45 days of the first day of instruction. They could let you resign, but do not have to let you by law. If you do resign within 45 days of the first day of instruction, the school could choose to hold your teachers certificate for two years. This would make it impossible for you to teach in another school district for that time. The 45 Day Rule includes weekends and holidays. 

REMEMBER, THE ASSOCIATION CANNOT HELP YOU AFTER THE FACT. IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH YOUR JOB OR CONTRACT CALL THE ASSOCIATION IMMEDIATELY.

Raffles      
BE CAREFUL WITH RAFFLES

Raffles are popular money making tools for many organizations in Texas, including FFA Chapters and related entities. Under Texas law, a “raffle” consists of the awarding of one or more prizes by chance at a single occasion among a single pool or group of persons. Raffles were illegal in Texas until 1989, even if the raffle was conducted by a charity. Certain qualified entities are now allowed to conduct raffles, but the legislature has placed strict conditions on the operation of such raffles. The provisions governing raffles are found in the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act, Chapter 2002 of the Texas Occupations Code. If a raffle does not meet the specific requirements set forth in the Occupations Code, it is illegal and participation, as a buyer or seller, creates the risk of criminal liability under the gambling provisions of Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code. 

Generally speaking, not-for-profit or charitable organizations that have been in existence for more than three years may qualify as “qualified entities” allowed to conduct raffles. However, given the potential criminal implications, any nonprofit organization should carefully consider the applicable regulations before commencing a raffle.

The restrictions on the promotion and sales of tickets are the most likely traps for the unwary. Organizations are not allowed, directly or indirectly, to use paid advertising to promote a raffle through “a medium of mass media,” such as television, radio, or newspaper. However, this prohibition does not seem to prohibit mass media sources from donating advertising to the organization. Another restriction is an organization is not allowed to promote or advertise a raffle statewide and is not allowed to sell or offer to sell tickets for the raffle statewide. The term “statewide” is not defined in the statute and caution suggests that a raffle should not be promoted or tickets sold through means that could arguably reach a statewide audience. Organizations are also prohibited from compensating a person, directly or indirectly, for organizing or conducting a raffle or for selling or offering to sell tickets to a raffle. Finally, an organization may not permit a person who is not a member of the organization or who is not authorized by the organization to sell or offer to sell raffle tickets. 

There are also restrictions on the timing and frequency in which an organization can hold a raffle. Only two raffles per calendar year are allowed and tickets can be sold for only one raffle at a time. Also, before selling or offering to sell tickets for a raffle, an organization must set a date for the prize or prizes to be awarded. If the prize is not awarded within the 30 days of the date, the organization must refund or offer to refund the amount paid by each person who purchased a ticket. Therefore, it is important to obtain the purchaser’s contact information should a refund become necessary. 

The raffle ticket itself must set forth certain disclosures. These include:
- The name of the organization conducting the raffle;
- The address of the organization or of a named officer of the organization;
- The ticket price;
- A general description of each prize having a value of more than $10 to be awarded in the raffle; and 
- The date the raffle prize or prizes will be awarded.

The value of the raffle prize cannot exceed $50,000.00 and the prize cannot be money. It is not clear whether the $50,000.00 limit applies to a single prize or to the value of all prizes that may be offered in the raffle. Also, the term “money” does not mean just coins and currency. The Texas Attorney General has ruled that the term “money” includes negotiable instruments that are equivalent to money, such as certificates of deposit. The courts and the Attorney General have yet to address whether gift certificates, vouchers or similar prizes are allowed under the statute. Further, before an organization commences a raffle it must either (1) have the prize to be offered in its possession or ownership, or (2) post bond with the county clerk of the county in which the raffle is to be held for the full amount of the money value of the prize.

All proceeds from the sale of tickets for a raffle must be spent for the charitable purpose of the organization. “Charitable purpose” is defined broadly enough to take in many FFA activities and specifically includes “benefiting needy or deserving persons in this state… by enhancing their opportunities for…educational advancement.” An organization may use a portion of raffle proceeds to pay the reasonable, incidental, and necessary expenses of conducting the raffle from which the proceeds were raised, but ordinarily no raffle proceeds may be used to fund subsequent raffles. 

Although it is not clear whether the raffle provisions are being strictly enforced and prosecuted, the potential consequences violators face should be taken seriously. The Charitable Raffle Enabling Act allows local prosecutors or the Attorney General to bring action to enjoin conduct involving a raffle that violates state gambling laws. Further, under the Penal Code, a person commits an offense if he or she intentionally or knowingly, for gain, sells or offers to sell or knowingly possesses for transfer, or transfers any card, stub, ticket, check, or other device designed to serve as evidence of participation in an illegal lottery. A violation of this provision is a Class A misdemeanor. Under Texas law, a person sells or offers to sell a raffle ticket “for gain” even if ticket proceeds are used solely for charitable purposes.

Do not assume that your organization’s raffle complies with the law. “We’ve been doing it that way for years” will not be a valid defense should law enforcement pursue criminal action against you or the organization for violations of the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act. While raffles remain a viable and effective fundraising option for not-for-profit organizations, great care should be taken to review the provisions and restrictions of the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act before each raffle is commenced. Better yet, retain competent legal counsel to advise you on such matters. The profit made from an illegal raffle will never be enough to compensate you or your organization should your raffle be the one selected for criminal prosecution.

   
 
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