Arizona Teacher License Defense Attorney | Education Licensing Lawyers
In a shocking and precedent-setting case, a New York City elementary school teacher was fined $7,500 by his school district after it came to light that he was detained for having sex with a prostitute.
The Arizona teacher, in this case, sued the school district over the fine, and he won his case! The judge ruled that the teacher’s conduct had no connection to his official duties as an educator and that the arrest occurred on a Saturday when the teacher was off-duty.
That said, educators are often under some of the tightest surveillance of any profession.
Today, we want to examine why an educator must reach out to defense attorneys as soon as possible when confronted with the possibility of having their certification to teach put in jeopardy. At Chelle Law, we stand up for our educators and ensure we give them their fair day in court. We also help those educators ensure that they have their contracts set up appropriately.
We Assist Educators | Professional License Defense
Chelle Law has represented over 1000 licensed professionals in Arizona before licensing Boards and school districts. It has the professional license defense experience needed to defend the rights of teachers and educators with the Arizona State Board of Education and individual school districts.
We assist educators with the following:
- Contract Issues (breaking a contract mid-year)
- Educator Misconduct Investigations
- Arizona Board of Education Complaints
- Personal Misconduct Problems (DUI, assault, etc.)
- Criminal Reporting
Arizona Teacher Contract Issues
Before new educators begin their work, they must sign a contract with the school district outlining their specific responsibilities and privileges. This contract will include details such as:
- Their rate of pay
- Their schedule
- Their obligations outside of teaching their students
- The length of their contract (for most teachers in Arizona, this is just one year)
- Any other details that may be relevant to the educator’s job
The contracts that educators sign are significant to their ability to get their work done correctly and to protect them from the risk of an employer taking advantage of them. It is best to contact the attorneys who can help you look at the contract to ensure it works in your favor.
Chelle Law attorney can help you examine your contract line by line to determine if your contract elements are ideal.
Arizona Educator Misconduct Investigation
The average citizen would be shocked to learn about the potential allegations against an Arizona educator. Due to their profession, educators’ private lives are frequently made public. They spend time around other people’s children, and it is undoubtedly essential to keep those children safe.
Some educators may feel their rights are violated if they are penalized for certain personal behaviors that have nothing to do with their teaching responsibilities.
In recent years, many educators have found themselves in hot water for various things they have posted on social media. They may share a piece of their life that others find objectionable. If someone else had done this, there wouldn’t be much of a problem. Still, many people are hasty to judge the actions of educators.
Thus, a misconduct investigation may occur after an unfortunate social media post. If that is the case, you should immediately obtain an education attorney from Chelle Law to help you fight against such accusations.
Arizona Board of Education Complaints
The Arizona Board of Education is open to accepting complaints from the public regarding how educators conduct themselves professionally. Thus, it is often the criminal case that educators find themselves backed up into a corner and have to defend themselves against the accusations made by people on the Board.
Chelle Law will provide you with the attorneys you need to make your case to the Board and ensure you get a fair hearing. Our team has worked on these cases before, so we know what to do during each process step. Please put your trust in us to protect you during this process.
Fight Back Against Arizona Teacher Personal Misconduct Accusations
Arizona teachers are frequently the target of misconduct allegations, as mentioned here. People who send their children to a particular school district will always keep an eye on the behavior of the educators that work there. In some cases, those parents may take things a little too far and pay attention to behaviors that have no real impact on the educator’s job.
When an educator finds themselves in a situation where they have accusations of misconduct put against them, it is necessary to establish a solid legal criminal defense against those accusations. It means getting great attorneys to help you make the case.
You are not guilty of the allegations, and the charges made against you are not a violation of the law in any way. Sometimes a combination of the two is necessary. Teachers in Arizona must ensure they have the resources to protect their legal status and reputation from the claims occasionally made against them.
Arizona Teacher Criminal Reporting
Finally, all educators fall under the list of “mandatory reporters.” That is to say that they have a legal obligation to report the neglect or abuse that they witness or hear about from anyone. Failure to follow through with their commitment on this account could put the educator in a position where they are in legal trouble for not following through on their obligation.
Chelle Law License Defense Attorneys
Chelle Law attorneys are on standby to help any educator accused of not meeting their professional and legal obligations to report the neglect or abuse of a child that they are legally obligated to report.
Suppose you find yourself in any of the above situations or any other legal jeopardy for an educator. In that case, we ask that you contact us.
Let us start working with you to build your criminal defense and help you make wise decisions regarding how you will stand up to the accusations against you. Let us do what we do best so that you can get back to doing what you do best.
Other Blogs of Interest
- Can You Be a Teacher in Arizona With a Misdemeanor? | Arizona Teachers
- Arizona Teacher Fingerprint Clearance Card Suspension | Arizona Fingerprinting Board
- Arizona Reporting of Teacher Criminal Convictions
What Happens When an Arizona Teacher is Under Investigation?
What happens when an Arizona teacher is under investigation by their school district?
I am mainly speaking about the public education system here in Arizona. But it is a very similar process for charter schools, and it can also be for other private schools. So, I will go through a general overview of what happens when a teacher is under investigation for misconduct.
Typically, it starts with notifying the teacher that they are under investigation. The school will then let you know what you’re under investigation. Something having to do with the student, other staff, teachers, parents, or maybe something outside that happened.
If the Students Are at Risk
But if they feel the students are at risk or you may be impaired, they’ll start the investigation and let you know. Once the inspection begins, the school will put the teacher on administrative leave. It’s been my experience that the school will pay for it.
It may be unpaid, but you’re on break if it’s egregious. And what that means typically is that the school will send you home. You’re not to usually contact the school district or anybody in the school. I take that back. There’s typically one contact for you. If you have any issues or questions, you can contact that person. But other than that, you’re not to contact anyone, including students. And so, when you’re on administrative leave, the school will investigate.
They’ll typically speak to students if they are involved. Parents or just any of the parties get their side of the story. They may also ask to interview you as well. And there, you’ll state your side of the story and all the circumstances around it. They also may look for evidence through videos, emails, and anything written. They will go through the content and try to get a good picture of this situation.
Employer Conditions for Teacher Misconduct
After all of that’s done, they’ve conducted their investigation. They’ve met with you then as a teacher and will go ahead and decide. So, there are lots of different options for how this can work.
Sometimes they’ll say you can remain on administrative leave until the end of the school year. And we will accept your resignation. My experience supposes a teacher is under investigation and is not super serious. Most times, they’ll say, we’ll take your resignation. So, you’ll finish your school year, and you guys can go your separate ways.
If the degree is super egregious, they may terminate their contract with you. Then you’re done with your employment with them. Sometimes there can be hybrids like you’ll finish the rest of the year on administrative leave and maybe start at the new school year. So it just depends on the situation.
If it has to do with student safety and other staff, it’s fact sensitive. After conducting their investigation, they’ll let you know if you’re coming back.
Then there is what most people think is done and over with, but it’s not. Your school board or district may report you to your licensing board, or they may file a formal complaint. And so that will spark a whole investigation with the Arizona State Board of Education.
Child Safety and Protective Services
If it’s about the safety or well-being of a child, one may consider the school board or district as mandated reporters. And must report you to the police and child protective services. So, you want to be careful when the investigation process starts.
I recommend advising lawyers, helping them, or having them help you throughout the whole process because it can be very stressful. Especially when you’re in a situation where you can’t reach back out to the school district, and you’re trying to get your school supplies or know what you can and can’t do. And to stop any further investigations with the licensing board, as I said, police, and child protective services.
So that’s a broad overview of what happens during an investigation. As I said, I recommend advising an attorney here at Chelle Law. We are very familiar with this process and help teachers daily. I was an educator for eight years before becoming an attorney. So again, we are very familiar with this process and working with Arizona’s school districts in the public and charter school systems.
Disciplinary Actions for Arizona Teachers
What possible disciplinary actions can a school take against a teacher or an educator in Arizona?
I’m mainly speaking to educators in grades K-12 in the public school setting here in Arizona. Charter schools and some private schools.
First, let’s talk about how you would get to the place where you would receive discipline as a teacher. Suppose any allegations or complaints made for misconduct, abuse, unprofessional conduct, or crimes you’ve committed outside the school. Accordingly, huge possibilities could affect your job as a teacher within a school district. But once that happens, the school will open an investigation.
You will be made aware of it. In addition, the school may interview students, parents, or staff. They may review cameras. Any evidence they can collect within the school to see if there’s any validity to the misconduct allegations.
While this is happening, they usually put you on administrative leave. I would say it’s paid. Sometimes it’s unpaid, which means you have to leave school.
You may also not come back or contact anyone in the school unless it’s a designated person. Typically, there’s someone in HR or the legal department that you can reach if you need any questions answered. But during that time, when you are on administrative leave, you are away from the school. So, once they’ve conducted their investigation, they find that there is some validity to it. They may impose discipline on that teacher.
Disciplinary Actions Against the Teacher
And so, what does that look like?
Most of the time, the school district will let the teacher resign. They’ll say quit, or we will terminate your contract. So, they will force you to leave the school district. That’s probably the most common one. Sometimes you guys go your separate ways. There’s a mutual agreement that it would not be a good fit for you to remain at the school. And so, you’re released from your contract.
And then, if it’s severe and threatening the safety of students, you may be terminated. It would be considered a for-cause termination outlined in your employment contract, and you can look at that. Furthermore, it has specific reasons why they can terminate it.
Now, these are the disciplines within the school district. So, they’ll mainly put you on probation or administrative leave, or you’ll be terminated or forced to resign. But you want to remember that schools are mandated reporters, so you can call this discipline or not. But they will report you to your licensing board. So, that’s the state board of Education in Arizona.
Importance of Having a Defense Attorney
They are likely to open an investigation for whatever those allegations were. Consequently, they will also decide what discipline should be against your license. If it’s severe abuse against a student, then the school district will report you to the local authorities. So, that’s the police, and they may also open an investigation. Also, if it’s anything to do with children or students, they will report you to child protective services.
They may also open another investigation. So, three agencies and licensing boards will be conducting and potentially disciplining or filing charges against you. It is serious. Teachers always want to protect themselves. So, I recommend having a lawyer represent you if you’re under investigation and the school may be disciplining you somehow.
Here at Chelle Law, we’re very familiar with this process. I was an educator for eight years before becoming an attorney. So, I’m highly familiar with the process.
Arizona Teacher Abuse Investigation
What happens when an Arizona teacher is under investigation for an allegation of abuse?
So, to go over the general process when a teacher is under investigation in the public school setting, charter school, and sometimes in the private school setting here in Arizona. I’m mainly speaking grades K-12.
They will notify you that you are under investigation by your school district or by your school. They’ll also let you know what the actual complaint is or what the allegation is. Subsequently, they will put you on administrative leave. It can be paid or unpaid, so you will not be able to return to school.
When put on administrative leave, they’ll send you a language saying you cannot contact anyone at the school district. It includes students, parents, and staff unless it’s someone in HR or legal. If you need anything, you can reach out to those contacts. But other than that, it’s no contact. And you may not come back and fulfill your position until the investigation is over.
Abuse Towards Students
Today, I’m specifically talking about an abuse allegation, specifically abuse towards students. Now, this could be physical or emotional abuse. The list goes on from there. It also depends on what type of abuse is alleged.
However, school districts are mandated reporters. If they find any validity to the allegation, they are mandated reporters and will report you to the local authorities. So, that’s the police. The police will also open an investigation and notify child protective services here in Arizona. It is scary and sets forth a chain of severe issues for your career and even criminally.
That said, you want to make sure that you are protected. Suppose an educator is under investigation for abuse. In that case, I always recommend advising an attorney. Having them represent you ensures you are aware of the process and advocating. They’re advocating for you for the best outcome possible.
What Does the Investigation Look Like?
When the school investigates abuse, they will likely talk to any students involved, parents, and staff. They may look at emails to see if there’s any communication involved. Honestly, it just varies depending on the situation. Cameras, if there are any like physical abuse allegations. The school will decide if they think that there is enough there. Again, if there is, they will report you to the State Board of Education.
There will be an investigation against your license and a criminal investigation. The school will inform you about the local authorities and child protective services.
Again, this can be overwhelming. I always recommend advising an attorney and having them represent you throughout this process. If they find these allegations unfounded, you’ll likely come back off administrative leave and then go on accordingly. They may make some recommendations on your parameters whenever you come back if it involves a student. And then, if they find that it is validated, they will likely terminate your contract or let you resign immediately.
There are lots of different outcomes. The biggest takeaway is that school safety is as severe as it should be. But you want to ensure that you’re protecting yourself. And know that they are reporting this to other boards and agencies within the state.
Can an Arizona Teacher Break Their Contract Mid-Year? | Breaking Contracts
Can a teacher break their employment contract during the school year here in Arizona?
The answer is they can, but they may open themselves up to paying damages to the school district.
Liquidated Damages Clause Could Follow a Teacher After Breaking a Contract
Some employment agreements for teachers in their school district have a “liquidated damages clause.”
It states that if teachers break their employment agreement during the school year, they will have to pay that district thousands of dollars. The contract includes this because if a teacher leaves mid-year, the school district is left without a teacher. So, they will have to recruit to find someone to start immediately. If not, they’ll have to pay the substitute for those costs and if they need to advertise a position within a short period. That’s kind of what covers that.
You should always look first in your employment agreement to see if there is a liquidated damage clause in your employment agreement.
Laws About Arizona Teachers Unprofessional Act
Also, the teacher should know that Arizona law states that a certified teacher shall not resign after signing and returning their contract. Unless the governing board first approves the resignation.
A teacher who leaves contrary to this section shall be deemed to commit an unprofessional act. And upon request of the governing board, shall be subject to such disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of the certificate as a State Board of Education deems appropriate.
It means you are not only subject to potentially paying the school district thousands of dollars. The school district can also report that teacher to the State Board of Education, and the board could investigate their license. This situation is serious. And it’s becoming more and more of a concern just because of the pandemic, the shortage of teachers, and the teacher’s salary is low.
In Education, 12% Involve Teachers in Breaching Contracts.
And so, suppose you find a district willing to pay you more and closer to home. In that case, there could be various reasons you would consider an offer at a different location.
However, you must ensure you do it properly by referring to your employment agreement to see if there are any sort of damages like financially that you would have to be paying.
You would also want to be released by the school board because they can report you. It is a growing trend. The Arizona State Board of Education has said that up to 12% of their current investigations involve teachers breaching their contracts.
And it’s a pressing thing. So, you want to make sure, I know I said this before, that you want to do it properly. Refer to your employment first. And then, you want to get the board’s approval. I know it’s a tough decision and a hard time for educators.
Everything with COVID puts more stress on teachers. They’re understaffed, underpaid, and could be in a difficult position, and you want to leave, but you can’t.
Arizona Teacher Personal Misconduct
Teachers may be held up on a podium above the rest of us in some people’s minds, but they are human, just like the rest of us. They like the same things that the rest of us do. A survey conducted by MDR Education found that 83% of educators said they use Facebook, 72% said they use Pinterest, and 54% admitted using Instagram.
Significantly, teachers can engage with social media just like the rest of us. It may even help connect with students and parents in some ways, but it can also be dangerous.
Educators are judged more strictly based on their conduct and professionalism than in many other professions. Thus, the dangers posed by social media are severe for many educators. We will speak about this and many other topics of concern for teachers in Arizona related to their behavior and how they may be reprimanded for it.
Can Arizona Teachers Get in Trouble for Social Media?
Teachers in Arizona can get in trouble for their social media usage. One North Carolina public school teacher found herself in a problem with her employer. A video of her doing some pole dancing leaked onto social media. The school suspended her, but many are crying foul and saying that her constitutional rights are being violated.
It is still up in the air as to how this specific situation will play out. Still, it shows educators can get in trouble for their social media posts, even if they did not intend for the public audience to consume them.
Arizona Teacher Misappropriation of School Funds
Teachers in the Arizona school system can find themselves in serious trouble if accused of misappropriating school funds. Those funds are collected from taxpayers and meant to be distributed throughout the school system for specific purposes.
If an educator redistributes those funds in a way not intended, they can be in trouble with their school district.
Such violations can result in immediate termination in many cases. And it can be very challenging for educators to overcome their situation and rebuild their reputation. They might have a black mark on their resume that they cannot easily overcome.
What Can Happen When a Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
It is never appropriate for a teacher to verbally abuse a student. Sadly, it does sometimes happen when someone hits their breaking point. They may go off on a student who has personally angered them somehow.
The teacher who does respond in this way can face some consequences for their actions. These may include:
- A verbal or written warning from their principal
- A disciplinary hearing about their actions
- A requirement to attend communication/anger management courses
- A suspension of their teaching license
- The cancellation of their license to teach
No matter the ultimate consequences of their actions, the fact remains that educators who verbally abuse a student are putting themselves in a terrible position overall. They are making life more challenging for themselves and simultaneously taking a hit on their reputation.
Substance Abuse Issues Among Teachers
The possession and consumption of certain substances are illegal for people, no matter what profession they are in. When those people are teachers, the consequences of their actions can be even more dramatic than they would be for an everyday person. Thus, we must try to address what substance abuse issues among teachers can mean for those teachers.
The mere accusation of a substance abuse issue can potentially sink an educator’s career. Society holds teachers to a certain standard as role models for their students. The school district reasonably assumes that its educators will work to set an excellent example for the students. It is why there are often such strict penalties for educators who violate these laws.
Can an Arizona Teacher Get in Trouble for Lying on an Application?
Many people have told a little white lie or two on their applications for jobs in the past. Bolstering their profile even slightly may be enough to help land the job. However, educators who were found to have done this on their application can get in trouble.
Often, educators who lie on their application do so to try to cover up some previous misdeeds that they don’t want their new school district to know about. It is a sly trick that they may use to try to pull one over on a new employer and attempt to get a job that they do not truly deserve.
Sadly, this sometimes works—certain educators make their way into the system when they do not belong anywhere near a schoolhouse. As a result, anyone discovered to have lied on an employment application must face severe consequences from the various school districts.
What is Considered Abuse or Assault of a Student in Arizona?
Many behaviors fall under the umbrella of abuse or assault of a student in Arizona. Some of the actions included in these offenses include the following (not an exhaustive list):
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Child prostitution
- Abuse (physical or verbal)
- Physical neglect
Educators (or anyone else) should never engage in these behaviors toward a student at any time. Doing so violates the victim’s personhood and rights to survive and thrive.
Arizona Teacher Sexual Relationship with a Student Issues
Establishing a sexual relationship with a student by a teacher is always wrong, even if that student is of legal age to consent (18 in most places). The power dynamic between a teacher and a student is real, and having a sexual relationship in those conditions is inappropriate.
Thus, it can violate criminal laws and the school district’s code of conduct. As such, it is one of the fastest ways a teacher can lose their privilege to teach in the district.
Subject to a Misconduct Investigation?
Suppose you are an educator facing accusations of personal misconduct. In that case, you can contact us to let our team at Chelle Law review your case/cases and work with you on the next steps. Not every accusation is founded, and not every educator is guilty of what others say about them.
We will do everything in our power to help you fight against allegations people lob at you. In due time, we can help you out of this situation with as minor damage to your reputation as possible.
Professional License Defense
Chelle Law provides guidance and representation for educators and teachers in Arizona with criminal issues, disciplinary investigations, and contract problems.
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