Arizona Teacher PPAC Complaint Hearing
What is a Professional Practices Advisory Committee (PPAC) Complaint Hearing?
To address that, I’ll backtrack just a little bit. If you’re an educator here in Arizona, the Arizona Board of Education likely licensed you.
If there is a complaint for either immoral or unprofessional conduct, there will probably be an investigation, and you may be disciplined with your license here in Arizona.
Sometimes you can come to a negotiated settlement agreement. So, the state board, your investigator, and you agree on the findings of facts, conclusions of law, and discipline the investigation will bring forth. If you agree, it’s a consent or settlement agreement. They will convey it before the state board of education, they can affirm it, then it will go into effect.
Complaint Will Be Brought to the PPAC
However, if you contest any of the findings, the discipline, or anything like that, you cannot agree. They will bring your complaint before the Professional Practices Advisory Committee. This committee acts like an administrative hearing.
So, there are committees apprised of seven individuals, and these groups alternate. You will go before the committee. You may bring evidence and examine witnesses if you would like. They can also ask you questions and consider aggravating circumstances—that’s anything that’s not going to help your case.
So, if you have the prior discipline or similar complaints in the past, those would aggravate circumstances.
They would also consider mitigating circumstances. Are you new to the profession? What are the surrounding circumstances that may help with your situation? They’re going to appraise all of that. With all the evidence you put on, you can represent yourself, or you can have an attorney represent you as well.
Discipline Depends on What Type of Misconduct
After the hearings, they will then make a finding of fact and conclusions of law and a recommendation for discipline.
Discipline for the State Board of Education has a guideline depending on what type of immoral or unprofessional conduct. It is anywhere from a DUI, breaking your teaching contract, to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work.
Once they’ve decided to bring all of that before the board of education, they will affirm, amend, or reject the committee’s findings. And once that happens, if they affirm it, it would likely go into effect and amending.
Other topics of interest:
Arizona Teacher Unprofessional Conduct Dismissal
What is unprofessional or immoral conduct for a teacher in Arizona?
It is often used by school districts when deciding to discipline a teacher. And also with the State Board of Education.
So, what is unprofessional or immoral conduct? Arizona regulation R7-2-1308 defines what unprofessional or immoral conduct is. There are 15 things listed. They’re a catchall. The last item on there is number 15. It says any conduct that would harm the teaching profession is unprofessional.
I can go through each of those, but we could start with misappropriating funds. Suppose you’re using money given by the state or federal government. You’re not using them as you should or taking them for your gain. In that case, that’s unprofessional or immoral conduct.
Then you can go into any alleged abuse against a student. That could mean:
- Sexual abuse
Any of those that would fall in that category is unprofessional or immoral.
One popular thing I see from clients nowadays is when a teacher breaks the contract mid-year. They ask to be released. The school district says no, there’s a requirement to stay, but they break their contract. It can be immoral or unprofessional conduct.
Unprofessional Conduct for Teachers
It also includes substance abuse issues, even outside of the classroom. Suppose it would affect students’ well-being, safety, or health. Then, it would be unprofessional or immoral conduct.
Next, getting impaired while at school under the influence of alcohol and drugs is on the list. You may not consider if you misrepresent or lie on any documents, records, or applications. That comes into consideration.
Unprofessional conduct mainly focused on students. However, staff, parents, and fellow teachers could commit unprofessional conduct. So, you want to keep that in mind. Again, the catchall is anything that would endanger or discredit the teaching profession. That’s the presentation of the statement of the regulation. A school district can investigate if they reasonably suspect that unprofessional conduct occurred.
They get a mandate to report. It makes them disclose any of that to the following:
- Legal authorities
- Child protective services
- State Board of Education
The latter would then conduct their investigation.
Arizona Teacher Lying on an Application
If a teacher lies on their application, can they get into trouble?
Let’s discuss this at the school level and then at the State Board of Education.
Suppose you lie on your application for a teaching position. There is potential for you to be in trouble or to be disciplined by your district. Often, this looks like this, have you ever been convicted or arrested for a previous crime?
And usually, people get confused with being arrested or convicted or what those things mean. Or they’re just flat-out hiding it.
For a Teacher With a New or Existing Employment Contract
But teachers have many background checks, and so things pop up. So, if something doesn’t match up with your application and your background check, it is likely you lied.
If you did this knowingly, you gave a false statement. Yes, it could be considered unprofessional conduct. The school district could revoke your employment agreement if you haven’t started yet.
If you have started, they may put you on administrative leave while investigating what you falsified on your application. And they may either terminate or ask you to resign from your position.
If this happens at the state level, you’d be licensed here by the State Board of Education of Arizona for your state teacher certification to become an educator. That would probably be unprofessional conduct if you knowingly make a false statement.
State Board Investigations
And the state board may open an investigation. Again, as I’ve stated before, teachers undergo many different background checks. You want to be careful when looking at your application and answering it.
If it says something like, have you ever been arrested? That means, have you been arrested? That doesn’t mean you’ve been convicted of a crime. Those two are very different things. And they can be confusing, but you want to ensure you read those questions carefully and answer them to the best of your knowledge.
Another one is, have you ever been under investigation by the State Board of Education, or have you had any prior discipline? And you marked no, but you know that you had been under investigation. Even if they didn’t find a substantial complaint and dismissed it or didn’t hand down any discipline, but if there was an investigation, and that’s the question they’re asking—you need to answer it.
Arizona Teacher Legal Repercussions
Again, these things can get tricky when you apply. However, knowingly making a false statement or lying is considered unprofessional conduct. At the state level, they are likely to hand down discipline. That could be a letter of censure, a suspension, or suspension with conditions. And depending on the severity of the lie, you could even have your license revoked.
So, it’s something you want to take very seriously. We have educators call our firm frequently who may have a criminal history and want to ensure that they answer the questions correctly. And that’s something you can do. You can also ask the elementary school district if this is something I must disclose at the state level also?
What Can Happen When an Arizona Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
What happens when a teacher is under accusation of verbally abusing a student?
First, I’ll talk about it at the school level and then at the State Board of Education level. What might happen against your teacher license?
Suppose the school reasonably suspects that there is verbal abuse against a student. In that case, they’ll likely investigate, and you’ll get disciplinary action at the school level.
What might this look like? You may be put on administrative leave and may or may not receive payment. You may undergo termination or request to resign.
School District Investigation
The school district would also likely conduct its investigation. They would probably talk to the student, potentially the parent or parents, if there’s any communication between a teacher and the student. It might mean anything written or if there’s any video or audio evidence. They would also review that.
Suppose they reasonably suspect that verbal abuse did happen against this student. Then the following gets the mandate to report:
- School districts
- Public schools
- Private schools
- Charter schools
So they would note this. They’ll report this to the local authorities if they reasonably suspect a teacher. It means that the local police will open an investigation. They’ll also notify you of the State Board of Education.
Verbally Abusing Students is an Immoral Conduct
There may be an investigation for immoral or unprofessional conduct. We’ll get into that, but the state board may hand down discipline against your license and notify child protective services.
Verbal abuse, or any abuse, has a definition in Arizona statutes. It’s anything that can affect students’ safety, health, or well-being. So, if you verbally affected the student’s well-being somehow. Then, the school would likely find that there was potentially some verbal abuse and implement disciplinary actions previously stated.
At the state level, again, this is immoral or unprofessional conduct. They would conduct their investigation. You can negotiate a settlement, so you can agree on if there’s any discipline.
There are only four types of discipline at the state board level. You will get a letter of:
- Suspension with conditions
- Revocation of the educator’s license
- They also take into consideration any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
So, they’ll look at the whole situation and its facts. A grant of hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee if you can’t agree. This hearing is much like an administrative hearing.
You can put on the following:
- Examine witnesses
- Represented by an attorney.
They’ll make a finding of fact and conclusions of law. Then, decide on what discipline they think applies to your situation.
After their finding, they’ll hand that to the State Board of Education. The board will either affirm, amend, or deny their recommendations. Then you’ll receive your discipline.
There are guidelines for discipline by the State Board of Education. Verbal abuse, though, is a gray area. It’s not precisely specified. Abuse of a student is, but they don’t define if that’s physical, verbal, or emotional. Sexual abuse is, and it is defined.
But verbal abuse is a little bit trickier. So, you want to be careful. Please browse our website or contact us if you want further information. We would be happy to set up a consultation with you.
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