The Houston Federation of Teachers is seeking a state court order barring the district's professional-standards department from investigating student accusations against teachers.
Union leaders said the department--created during a reorganization under former Superintendent Frank Petruzielo--does not allow teachers to confront their accusers or attempt to clear their names.
The union is asking that the district instead return to its previous policy that gave principals and security officials authority to review students' claims, Gayle Fallon, the president of the union, said.
Ms. Fallon said the investigators in the professional-standards department have little training but wield great power over teachers.
The department, which is part of the district's personnel office, keeps records of all student accusations regardless of the outcome.
"It's like having a time bomb in your personnel file,'' Ms. Fallon said. "Now teachers are afraid to break up fights or touch a child.''
In addition, she asserted, the department "spends massive amounts of money on the cases.''
Jaime de la Isla, the associate superintendent for community affairs for the school district, said he did not know why the union had complained about the department but said he would not comment further until the suit is settled.
About 150 applicants invited to meet their new classmates at George Washington University's school of education got a big surprise this month: They were not among those accepted into the one-year program.
The university mistakenly invited candidates who were to be turned away from the master's-degree program to attend the school's orientation session.
A university employee inadvertently merged address files containing all the applicants' names with a list of those who were being offered spots, said Karen Sibert, a public-affairs official for the university, which is in Washington.
"To our knowledge, there has not been a tremendous outcry'' about the mix-up, Ms. Sibert said. "These things sometimes happen.''
The university has sent letters of apology to the unaccepted applicants, who have been put on a waiting list for admission.
The education school accepts about 700 of its 1,200 applicants each