Fired Special Ed. Director: The State Knew About Misconduct Allegations When It Hired Me

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelDecember 13, 2017 11:59 am

The former state special education director says the Texas Education Agency (TEA) knew about her past alleged misconduct when she was hired this summer.

The TEA fired Oregon educator Laurie Kash in November, after three months on the job. The agency says it let her go because Kash did not disclose allegations that she pressured employees to cover up the sexual abuse of a 6-year-old student while she was the special education director at a small Oregon school district.

Alejandra Matos, a politics reporter with the Houston Chronicle, says Kash is challenging that narrative. Kash and her lawyer shared text messages with Matos that show her TEA supervisor’s reaction to the lawsuit brought by her former employees.

“When the articles came out about that lawsuit, Justin Porter, her boss, texts her a link and just says, I just want to give you a heads up that this was out there,” says Matos. “He doesn’t raise any concerns. And she responds with ‘I found out Saturday – it’s that crazy employee I told you about this summer.”

Matos says the TEA stands by its statement that it did not know about misconduct allegations against Kash. Kash argues she was fired for filing a federal complaint questioning the legality of a TEA contract. That $4 million no-bid contract allows a private tech company to analyze the confidential records of students with disabilities in Texas.

The new head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen praised Texas for passing strict immigration enforcement policies and says she hopes other states do the same.

Secretary Nielsen, who was sworn into office last week, replaces John F. Kelly, who know serves as President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff. At an event in Austin on Tuesday night, Secretary Nielson said, “Texas is the first state in the nation to take a firm stand against dangerous and destructive sanctuary cities with the adoption of Senate Bill 4.”

State lawmakers passed this controversial bill during the 2017 legislative session. Among other things, Senate Bill 4 requires local government to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It also allows police to question people about their immigration status.

The law technically took effect on September 1, but pieces of it are held up in court.

Private spaceflight company Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its New Shepard vehicle in Texas Tuesday. And company’s founder, Jeff Bezos – who also heads a little company called Amazon – celebrated with a snazzy video on Twitter.

It’s the first big test flight the company has done in over a year. The brand new rocket is designed to eventually carry up to six passengers into suborbital space for a brief flight of fancy.

This time around though, there was a test dummy on board. According to the website, Ars Technica, the dummy was dubbed Mannequin Skywalker. (Get it?)