Arizona Teacher Misappropriation of Funds | Misuse Money
What would happen if a teacher was accused of misappropriating school funds?
Let’s talk about what that is or what it can mean. Generally, it would be using school money to support your gain rather than using it as the state laws and regulations require.
Let’s backtrack and talk about the school level and what would likely happen. So, the state statute requires the school district or governing board. Suppose they believe that they reasonably suspect that you have misappropriated school funds. In that case, they have mandated reporters.
What Happens If You are Suspected of Misappropriation of Funds?
I’m sure there are many policies within your school handbook that you receive and sign upon becoming an employee. Your school would likely discipline you. It could mean administrative leave, paid or unpaid.
Again, if they reasonably suspect, they will report this to local authorities because it is a crime, and the police will likely investigate it. They’ll also report if it has anything to do with any student’s safety or well-being. Child protective services may be involved. It is rare, but law enforcement will likely get involved and open an investigation. They will also report you to the State Board of Education.
So, at the school level, it’s likely administrative leave, paid or unpaid, or they may terminate your employment.
At the state level, your licensing board will open an investigation again if they reasonably suspect that you did misuse the money. They’re going to look and see how this affected students.
Mitigating Circumstances Information
They may consider mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
Mitigating circumstances might be that you’re new to this position or you’re new to this profession if you have any prior discipline.
And then aggravating circumstances, were you disciplined prior? Were you under investigation for anything similar? Things like that. That would exacerbate them, and the board could hold a hearing.
If you agree to a consent agreement, it stops there, conforming to the discipline. If you contest that, you say, I can’t entirely agree with that. You would go to a hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee, where you may have witnesses you can examine; you can put on evidence as exhibits, and that committee will find facts and conclusions of law.
Information Regarding Categories of Discipline
The discipline by the state board of Arizona education has only four categories. There’s a:
- Letter of Censure
- Suspension with conditions, or
- Revocation (your teaching license is revoked).
Misappropriating school funds is handled seriously. And I wouldn’t be just concerned with the licensing board. Your local law enforcement will likely investigate depending on the amount and circumstances. So, it’s serious. You want to take it very seriously.
I would advise speaking with an attorney, if not having one, to represent you if anything like that ever came up to you.
Other topics of interest:
- Can Arizona Teachers Get in Trouble for Social Media?
- What Can Happen When a Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
Arizona Teacher Personal Misconduct
Teachers may be held up on a podium above the rest of us in some people’s minds, but they are human, just like the rest of us. They like the same things that the rest of us do. A survey conducted by MDR Education found that 83% of educators said they use Facebook, 72% said they use Pinterest, and 54% admitted using Instagram.
Significantly, teachers can engage with social media just like the rest of us. It may even help connect with students and parents in some ways, but it can also be dangerous.
Educators are judged more strictly based on their conduct and professionalism than in many other professions. Thus, the dangers posed by social media are severe for many educators. We will speak about this and many other topics of concern for teachers in Arizona related to their behavior and how the school or board may reprimand them for it.
Can Arizona Teachers Get in Trouble for Social Media?
Teachers in Arizona can get in trouble for their social media usage. One North Carolina public school teacher found herself in a problem with her employer. A video of her doing some pole dancing leaked onto social media. The school suspended her, but many are crying foul and saying that her constitutional rights are being violated.
It is still up in the air as to how this specific situation will play out. Still, it shows educators can get in trouble for their social media posts, even if they did not intend for the public audience to consume them.
Arizona Teacher Misappropriation of School Funds
Teachers in the Arizona school system can find themselves in serious trouble if accused of misappropriating school funds. Those funds are collected from taxpayers and meant to be distributed throughout the school system for specific purposes.
If an educator redistributes those funds in a way not intended, they can be in trouble with their school district.
Such violations can result in immediate termination in many cases. And it can be very challenging for educators to overcome their situation and rebuild their reputation. They might have a black mark on their resume that they cannot easily overcome.
What Can Happen When a Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
It is never appropriate for a teacher to verbally abuse a student. Sadly, it does sometimes happen when someone hits their breaking point. They may go off on a student who has personally angered them somehow.
The teacher who does respond in this way can face some consequences for their actions. These may include:
- A verbal or written warning from their principal
- A disciplinary hearing about their actions
- A requirement to attend communication/anger management courses
- A suspension of their teaching license
- The cancellation of their license to teach
No matter the ultimate consequences of their actions, the fact remains that educators who verbally abuse a student are putting themselves in a terrible position overall. They are making life more challenging for themselves and simultaneously taking a hit on their reputation.
Substance Abuse Issues Among Teachers
The possession and consumption of certain substances are illegal for people, no matter what profession they are in. When those people are teachers, the consequences of their actions can be even more dramatic than they would be for an everyday person. Thus, we must try to address what substance abuse issues among teachers can mean for those teachers.
The mere accusation of a substance abuse issue can potentially sink an educator’s career. Society holds teachers to a certain standard as role models for their students. The school district reasonably assumes that its educators will work to set an excellent example for the students. It is why there are often such strict penalties for educators who violate these laws.
Can an Arizona Teacher Get in Trouble for Lying on an Application?
Many people have told a little white lie or two on their applications for jobs in the past. Bolstering their profile may be enough to help land the job. However, educators discovered to have done this on their application can get in trouble.
Often, educators who lie on their application do so to try to cover up some previous misdeeds they don’t want their new school district to know about. It is a sly trick that they may use to try to pull one over on a new employer and attempt to get a job that they do not truly deserve.
Sadly, this sometimes works—some educators make their way into the system when they do not belong anywhere near a schoolhouse. As a result, anyone discovered to have lied on an employment application must face severe consequences from the various school districts.
What is Considered Abuse or Assault of a Student in Arizona?
Many behaviors fall under the umbrella of abuse or assault of a student in Arizona. Some of the actions included in these offenses include the following (not an exhaustive list):
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Child prostitution
- Abuse (physical or verbal)
- Physical neglect
Educators (or anyone else) should never engage in these behaviors toward a student at any time. Doing so violates the victim’s personhood and rights to survive and thrive.
Arizona Teacher Sexual Relationship with a Student Issues
Establishing a sexual relationship with a student by a teacher is always wrong, even if that student is of legal age to consent (18 in most places). The power dynamic between a teacher and a student exists, and having a sexual relationship in those conditions is inappropriate.
Thus, it can violate criminal laws and the school district’s code of conduct. As such, it is one of the fastest ways a teacher can lose their privilege to teach in the district.
Subject to a Misconduct Investigation?
Suppose you are an educator facing accusations of personal misconduct. In that case, you can contact us to let our team at Chelle Law review your case/cases and work with you on the next steps. Not every accusation is founded, and not every educator is guilty of what others say about them.
We will do everything in our power to help you fight against allegations people lob at you. In due time, we can help you out of this situation with as minor damage to your reputation as possible.
How Long Does an Arizona School Investigation Take?
When a teacher is under investigation by their school in Arizona, how long does that take?
It’s a complicated answer because it depends on the situation. Suppose you are under investigation for misconduct or unprofessional conduct, or maybe you committed a crime outside of school. In that case, the list of what you can be under investigation for is very long.
In your school, they will generally let you know and give you notice that you are under investigation. And when that process starts, typically, the teacher is put on administrative leave.
Does a School Pay for Administrative Leave if You Are Under Investigation?
Now, usually, that’s paid administrative leave. However, sometimes it is unpaid. It just depends. But I would say the school will put you on paid administrative leave in the public school setting in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas.
What does that mean? That means they will send you home. You’re not to come back to the school or contact anyone there unless it’s probably HR or the legal department and while they’re conducting their investigation.
Now, I’ve seen this time frame greatly vary. It just depends on how long it takes for the school to gather all the information. So, if this was just one incident, it might be quick.
What Happens if You Are Under Investigation by a District School?
They may check cameras or communication, or emails. Or do they need to conduct multiple interviews with multiple staff or students? Do they need to advise their attorneys?
I would say the investigation is generally at least about a month to two months. When that process wraps up, they will let you know. They’ll also let you know if there will be any discipline against you in your employment.
If they ask you to resign, if you want to leave, or if the school will terminate you, they may also let you know they don’t have to. So you should ask: are they reporting you to the Arizona Board of Education? Will there be action against your license? In addition, are they disclosing this to the local police? Will they be opening an investigation with child protective services?
These are all things that you want to know while they’re conducting their investigation. School districts have to keep children’s safety as their top priority. So, considering they feel like students are threatened in any way. In that case, their investigation will continue until they think it’s safe for you to re-enter the classroom.
Contact Chelle Law
Investigations by schools can have some severe implications for you as an educator. So, suppose the school district is ever investigating you for misconduct, especially involving a student. In that case, I always recommend advising an attorney or having them represent you during this process to ensure that you protect yourself. You know your rights, and you’re 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 undergoing an investigation 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 contact 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.
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.
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 receive discipline as a teacher. Suppose any allegations or complaints made for misconduct, abuse, unprofessional conduct, or crimes you’ve committed outside the school. Accordingly, huge 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. In addition, the school 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 paid. Sometimes it’s unpaid, which means you have to leave 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 reach 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.
Arizona Teacher Abuse Investigation
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.
Arizona Teacher Unprofessional Conduct Dismissal
What is unprofessional or immoral conduct for a teacher in Arizona?
School districts and the State Board of Education often use it when disciplining a teacher.
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 conduct.
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.
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
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.
Lying in Applications
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.
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