Arizona Teacher Unprofessional Conduct Dismissal | Arizona Teachers
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 then also with the State Board of Education. So, what is unprofessional or immoral conduct? The 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 the way it 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 break their contract.
Unprofessional Conduct for Teachers
It can be immoral or unprofessional conduct. 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. Then, 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 come 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. This makes them report any of that to the:
- Legal authorities
- Child protective services
- State Board of Education
The latter would then conduct their investigation.
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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? I think the easiest way to define this 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 just about every scenario you can. They can’t deal with students, staff, and parents outside school. And so, if you follow those policies and understand them clearly, you follow them. You will not likely be considered to have done anything that would be misconduct.
Again, I would start with your employment contract handbook or anything the school 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. I would also say misconduct would 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. Suppose any of the following:
- Sexual abuse
Anything like that. That’s misconduct.
When a Misconduct Gets Confusing
It gets a little confusing when there are interactions with parents about students’ cultural differences. Then the area might get a little gray. But again, I would 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 going further than that, actions outside of school can also be misconduct by a teacher. And what I mean by that is the most common examples I would say probably are a DUI, domestic violence, and arrest assault.
I mean, 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 you’re 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 for 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 are 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, that’s local police departments, may open an investigation. And then also the department of child services may be notified and investigated. 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. Then, protect yourself, and know your rights and what you can and can’t do.
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, it’s likely that they’ll 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.
The school district would also likely conduct its investigation. They would probably talk to the student, potentially 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 likely note this, well, not likely, they will. 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.
Rights of Teachers for an Investigation
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 child protective services. Verbal abuse or any abuse has a definition in Arizona statutes. And it’s anything that can affect students’ safety, health, or well-being. So, if you verbally, somehow, affected the student’s well-being. Then, the school would likely find that potentially there was 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 at the state board level. You will get a letter of:
- Suspension with conditions
- Revocation of the teacher’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 a hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee if you can’t agree. This hearing is much like an administrative hearing. You can put on:
- 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. Then, they’ll either affirm, amend, or deny their recommendations. And 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.
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