Arizona Teacher Lying on an Application | Arizona Teachers
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 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, 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?
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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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
Talk to an Attorney
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.
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