Arizona Teacher Abuse Investigation | Abuse in Education
What happens when a 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.
Other topics of interest:
- What Happens When a Teacher is Under Investigation in Arizona?
- What are Possible Disciplinary Actions for Arizona Teachers?
Arizona Teacher Sexual Relationship with a Student
What are the issues if there’s ever an allegation of a teacher having a relationship of sexual nature with a student?
So, the school would likely start there. If the school found a credible allegation of a sexual relationship, they’d possibly immediately put the educator on administrative leave. If not, ask for the resignation or terminate them immediately. And when I say sexual relationship, I also include sexual abuse. So, these are very serious.
Sexual Misconduct in School
The school is a mandated reporter, so they likely immediately report this to local authorities or police. Also, police will be investigating this because it is a crime. The department of child services may investigate as well.
Furthermore, they’ll report you to the State Board of Education. They’ll conduct their investigation if they think there’s a finding of any relationship of sexual nature or abuse with a minor. It can mean communications, physical, social media, etc. It is more of a broad term.
You want to be very careful to understand that. It is taken very seriously, of course, by all those administrative agencies. There would likely be a hearing at the state board level unless you decided or agreed to revoke your license.
If not, they would conduct an administrative hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee.
Teacher License Revocation
They would make a finding of fact and conclusions of law if they did think there was a finding that there’s a relationship of sexual nature or abuse.
According to the State Board of Education guidelines, they would revoke the educator’s license if there was any relationship or abuse. It’s serious because the offense is severe. And so, that’s where it would usually go.
The Professional Practices Advisory Committee would then take their findings to the State Board of Education. And they would likely either affirm, deny, or amend their conclusions. Again, you may attend an administrative hearing at the state level if you disagree with the discipline.
Victim, Parents, and Staff Interview
At the school level, people would likely ask you to resign or terminate you. The investigation starts at the school level and would involve an interview with the victim or all the students involved. Maybe the alleged victim’s parents, family, and staff. They would go through communications that you allegedly had with the victim. And they might even look at video or audio evidence.
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 investigated 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 talk to 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.
What Happens After Teachers are Investigated?
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.
It’s been my experience that if a teacher is under investigation and it’s not super serious—most times, they’ll say, we’ll accept 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 they’ve conducted their investigation, they’ve let you know if you’re coming back or not 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.
Arizona Reporting of Teacher Criminal Convictions
What are the criminal reporting requirements for teachers in Arizona?
If a teacher in Arizona holds a license who teaches at a public, private, or charter school—I’m speaking to grades K-12. Suppose you teach any of those grades and receive a conviction of criminal charges. In that case, the court will report your conviction to the State Board of Education.
They’ll hand over any of their findings of:
- Conclusions of law
- Anything that led up to your conviction
It is a requirement by Arizona Revised Statute 13-3990.
Educators Background Check Laws in Teaching
The court clerk will hand over those documents to the State Board of Education for any conviction. So, this is important to remember as an educator. Suppose this happens, and they pass it to the State Board of Education. In that case, it may be an act of unprofessional or immoral conduct.
That is especially anything having to do with a minor:
- If they’re a victim of the crime
- They get into danger, or any child or violent substance abuse
All of which would likely go under investigation by the State Board of Education.
It’s essential to report it yourself, but know that if there’s a conviction in Arizona, the court will send it directly to the State Board of Education.
Suppose you receive a sentence for a criminal act outside of the state. Then, you should look at those state laws and do some research, but you’ll likely have to self-report anyway. So, keep that in mind in the future.
Also, as I said, if the State Board of Education considers it potentially unprofessional or immoral, they’ll open an investigation. There are discipline guidelines for bad or unprofessional conduct. You can negotiate a settlement and agree on the discipline, the findings of facts, and the conclusions of the law. Or if you decide you want to take it to a hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee.
So, the takeaway from all these things is getting a conviction for a criminal act within Arizona. The court will forward all that information to the State Board of Education. An investigation will likely proceed with those findings.
Examples of Arizona Teacher Misconduct
What are the different types of teacher misconduct within the state of Arizona?
I’m mainly speaking about educators K-12 and the public school setting here in Arizona, also charter schools in some private schools. So, what is teacher misconduct?
The easiest way to define teacher misconduct is to have you look at your employment contract. Sometimes it specifies it there. Any teacher handbook or policies within your school will likely spell out every scenario you can. They can’t deal with students, staff, and parents outside of school. And so, if you follow those policies and understand them clearly. They will not likely consider you to have done anything that would be misconduct.
Again, start with your employment contract, handbook, or anything the school committee provided you that explains it. You also can look at the State Board of Education here in Arizona. They have regulations on what is unprofessional conduct, what is misconduct, and what you can and can’t do with students. And the list goes on from there. So, those are the first two places to look for examples.
Misconduct would also be anything that threatens the health and safety of the students. That’s the school’s number one priority, as it should be.
And so, anything that threatens their safety or security is misconduct. Any of the following:
- Sexual abuse
Anything like that. That’s misconduct.
When a Misconduct Gets Confusing
It gets confusing when there are interactions with parents about students’ cultural differences. The area might get a little gray. Again, look at the school’s policies to see if they have guidelines on this type of communication or actions and if that falls within the misconduct range.
Another thing teachers forget to consider is that misconduct can also be with other staff. Examples of that may be different types of verbal interactions. It could be sexual harassment. Those are forms of misconduct.
And even further, a teacher’s actions outside of school can also be misconduct. And what I mean by that is the most common examples I would say probably are a DUI, domestic violence, and arrest assault. The list goes on from there.
But suppose you’re committing severe crimes or arrested outside the classroom, even on time. In that case, it’s still misconduct. So, you want to be careful. I know it’s hard being an educator. You always want to do your best, but you want to ensure you’re familiar.
Advantages of Being Familiar With School Policies
I keep saying this, but be familiar with all the school’s policies on what you can and can’t do in the classroom. That way, there are no surprises. Suppose a school thinks you have done something classified as misconduct. Then, they’re likely to open an investigation. They’ll give you notice of this. And then you’re likely put on administrative leave. It can be paid or unpaid. Then, the school will investigate whether this misconduct affects student safety or security.
If they find that it rose to the level of misconduct, they may ask you to resign as a teacher. It may terminate you. It may wait until the end of the school year; they may do it immediately. It depends. There’s a scale.
Also, schools act as mandated reporters, so especially if it’s anything about a student, they are very likely to report you to the State Board of Education. So, there may be an investigation for your license. Local authorities, like local police departments, may open an investigation. The department of child services may also be notified and start to investigate. Again, misconduct is a scale. There are mitigating circumstances around it.
So, you want to be very careful handling it if there are any misconduct allegations. I always recommend advising an attorney. Suppose you do not have one to represent you during the whole process with the school committee. Then, protect yourself, and know your rights and what you can and can’t do.
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