Disciplinary Actions for Arizona Teachers | Teacher Discipline
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.
Unprofessional Conduct for Educators
First, let’s talk about how you would get to the place where you would be disciplined as a teacher.
Suppose any allegations or complaints were made for misconduct, abuse, unprofessional conduct, or crimes you’ve committed outside the school. Accordingly, vast 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.
They 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 mainly paid. Sometimes it’s unpaid, which means you have to leave the 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 talk to 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.
Other topics of interest:
- Arizona Teacher Abuse Investigations Explained
- How Long Does a School Investigation Take in Arizona?
Arizona Teacher Certificate Discipline Options
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.
Suppose an investigation is due to a complaint of immoral or unprofessional conduct. You can negotiate a settlement agreement where you agree on what type of imposed discipline is against your license. 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.
Four Main Types of Discipline Taken Against Your License
There are four main types of discipline taken against your license.
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.
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.
Professional Practices Advisory Committee
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.
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.
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