Arizona Teacher Certificate Discipline Options | Education Disciplinary Action
What are the Arizona teaching certificate disciplinary options with the Arizona Board of Education?
So, you are an educator here in Arizona and likely hold a certificate from the Arizona Board of Education. Any instances of immoral or unprofessional conduct defined by statute and regulation can mean anything from breaking your teaching contract. There is a broad overview of a DUI outside the classroom. There is also being impaired while teaching under alcohol or drug influence. And unprofessional conduct with students’ communication inside or outside school.
And it’s broken down in the discipline guidelines the board has published. But with all of you, you have a couple of different options.
Negotiation of Settlement Agreement Regarding Immoral or Unprofessional Misconduct
Let’s say a complaint of immoral or improper behavior triggers an investigation. In that case, you can negotiate a settlement deal to agree on the license discipline the committee will apply. If you can test this, there will be a hearing before the professional practices advisory committee, and they will make findings of fact and conclusions of law.
They’ll use those guidelines for appropriate discipline against your license. So, let’s talk about those a little. An investigation will bring four main types of discipline against your license.
Four Types of Discipline Information
So, the first one is a letter of a cent. It is a public discipline, so it’s searchable. And there will be the finding of facts and conclusions of law on the circumstances regarding your discipline.
Next is a suspension. Your license could be suspended anywhere from one to three years. Again, it would help if you looked at the guidelines the board has published.
And then there’s suspension with conditions. Those conditions might be any counseling or rehabilitation program—things like that. But it’ll specify in the actual discipline what needs to happen and what you must complete.
And then lastly, there’s revocation, which means revocation of your license. So, you will not be able to hold a teaching certificate in Arizona. They will take away your license.
So, there are just four broad categories. The suspension can be for different periods in the conditions.
There may be things to consider that you must comply with before they lift the suspension with these discipline guidelines. And the types or the options of discipline the board or the professional practices.
An advisory committee will also consider any aggravating circumstances. These are things that are going to count against you. So, this is prior discipline, especially if it’s a similar act or mitigating circumstances that may help your case. If you’re new to the profession, you didn’t know certain things that may help your case that the board would consider.
However, there are only those four categories of discipline. Of course, if they dismiss the complaint, there will be no discipline. That would be the best outcome.
Other topics of interest:
How Long Does an Arizona School Investigation Take?
When a teacher is under investigation by their school in Arizona, how long does that take?
It’s a complicated answer because it depends on the situation. Suppose you are under investigation for misconduct or unprofessional conduct, or maybe you committed a crime outside of school. In that case, the list of what you can be under investigation for is very long.
In your school, they will generally let you know and give you notice that you are under investigation. And when that process starts, typically, the teacher is put on administrative leave.
Does a School Pay for Administrative Leave if You Are Under Investigation?
Now, usually, that’s paid administrative leave. However, sometimes it is unpaid. It just depends. But I would say the school will put you on paid administrative leave in the public school setting in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas.
What does that mean? That means they will send you home. You’re not to come back to the school or contact anyone there unless it’s probably HR or the legal department and while they’re conducting their investigation.
Now, I’ve seen this time frame greatly vary. It just depends on how long it takes for the school to gather all the information. So, if this was just one incident, it might be quick.
What Happens if You Are Under Investigation by a District School?
They may check cameras or communication, or emails. Or do they need to conduct multiple interviews with multiple staff or students? Do they need to advise their attorneys? I would say it’s generally at least about a month to two months. When that process wraps up, they will let you know. Then they’ll let you know if there will be any discipline against you in your employment.
If they ask you to resign, if you want to leave, or if the school will terminate you, they may also let you know they don’t have to. So you should ask: are they reporting you to the Arizona Board of Education? Will there be action against your license? In addition, are they disclosing this to the local police? Will they be opening an investigation with child protective services?
These are all things that you want to know while they’re conducting their investigation. School districts have to keep children’s safety as their top priority. So, considering they feel like students are threatened in any way. In that case, their investigation will continue until they think it’s safe for you to re-enter the classroom.
If You Need More Information Contact Chelle Law
Investigations by schools can have some severe implications for you as an educator. So, suppose the school district is ever investigating you for misconduct, especially involving a student. In that case, I always recommend advising an attorney or having them represent you during this process to ensure that you protect yourself. You know your rights, and you’re familiar with the process.
What Happens When an Arizona Teacher is Under Investigation?
What happens when an Arizona teacher is under investigation by their school district?
I am 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.
I will go through a general overview of what happens when a teacher is under investigation for misconduct. So 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.
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