Arizona Teacher Substance Abuse Issues | Arizona Teacher Drug and Alcohol Abuse
What are the consequences for a teacher accused of a substance abuse problem in Arizona?
So, I’m going to start at the district or school level. I’ll also address what can happen at the State Board of Education level.
What Does the School Do?
So, suppose you’re a teacher teaching grades K through eight in a public-school charter school and sometimes private school setting. The school may open an investigation if they reasonably suspect that you may have a substance abuse issue. They may put you on administrative leave—paid or unpaid.
Suppose they reasonably suspect you have substance abuse. Depending on certain situations after their investigation, there is potential for them to report you to the Arizona State Board of Education.
Suppose there are any allegations of you being impaired while teaching, the school may report you to the local authorities. So, the police department and also child protective services. But again, it is only if they reasonably suspect that you are under the influence of either alcohol or illegal substances while students are under your care. If this is the case, you may likely be terminated or asked to resign, and as mentioned, report you. Your school will report you to the State Board of Education at that level.
State Board Substance Abuse Investigation
Subsequently, the state board will open an investigation into your license. They will speak with staff and students and examine the surrounding circumstances. They may consider mitigating circumstances or aggravating circumstances as well.
If you have a history of substance abuse, you’ve been disciplined for this. Suppose you come together and negotiate a settlement agreement. You guys agree on the findings of facts, conclusions of law, and what type of discipline would be considered reasonable. If you agree, then it’s sent to the board. They accept the negotiated settlement agreement. Then you start your discipline.
If you can test the findings, they will send you to an administrative hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory committee. It’s set like an administrative hearing so that you can bring witnesses. You can put evidence to support your case. You can also have an attorney represent you after the hearing.
Do Research and Look for Websites that Can Help
They will make findings of facts and conclusions of law and send them to the state board of education. They will accept, reject, or amend the discipline and findings.
You can also look at the State Board and on our website. We have the guidelines for discipline by the State Board of Education.
Substance Abuse Prevention
So, if they find you under the influence of drugs or alcohol while teaching, there are presumptive guidelines for discipline. And this is a suspension for a period or a suspension with conditions for prevention. Those conditions might be the completion of counseling or rehabilitation programs.
You also must be careful if they consider you under the influence. And if there are any challenges with the student— if their well-being, health, and safety are threatened or affected.
There also might be an additional program or discipline. But if we’re talking straight about substance use addiction, again, even if the school doesn’t find you under the influence. Still, it affects your teaching and the students. The school district may hand down discipline.
Other topics of interest:
- What Can Happen When a Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
- Can an Arizona Teacher Get In Trouble for Lying on an Application?
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.
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 or prescription drug misuse 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.
How Does a DUI Affect Your Arizona Teaching Certificate?
What happens when a teacher in AZ gets a DUI?
Let’s first talk about that at the school level. It’s likely in your employment contract and may address this. If you get convicted of a crime, they may be able to terminate your agreement for cause.
If it’s not in your contract, there may be provisions in your handbook or teacher’s policy book that you sign as well. So, you’ll want to search at those two places. Also, the policy book or the contract typically states that you must report any arrest or criminal offenses, if not immediately, to the school.
You want to ensure you read those carefully and know your requirements at the school level. It is your requirement to self-report at the state level with your license. If not, it would get reported by the other agencies. And so, what happens?
Having an arrest for a DUI and being charged with a DUI are two different things. You’ll want to know where you are in the process, but if you’re arrested and then charged, the State Board of Education has a DUI disciplinary matrix. It talks about what happens if you get a DUI.
Varying Levels of DUIs in Arizona
It goes through the different scenarios and doesn’t state what type of DUI. In the state of Arizona, there are a couple of varying levels of DUI. But the metrics do not address that. However, it addresses if it is your first DUI. They may investigate. Suppose they don’t find any substance abuse issues. In that case, you can have a negotiated settlement, and there may not be any disciplinary action for your first DUI. However, it is flagged.
And what that means is that if you were to get an additional DUI within the next three to five years. You’re looking at suspension or suspension with conditions, which might mean a required counseling or rehabilitation program. They’re also probably going to investigate to ensure you are not under the influence while teaching.
Also, is it under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or substances? So, that’s all the things that they’re going to consider. If you have three DUIs, they’ll likely suspend you or revoke your license here in Arizona.
Mitigating Your Circumstance
Now, they also search for mitigating circumstances. As I said, is this your first DUI? Do you have any other criminal history? Have you ever been disciplined before by Arizona’s State Board of Education?
Aggravating circumstances become counted against you. Was there a child in the car? Was there any property damage? Have you had multiple DUIs, or is there a history of substance abuse? Things like that will count against you, so your disciplinary action may be slightly more.
But if it’s your first DUI, like I said, it will be flagged by the State Board of Education. And they will watch that to ensure that you do not receive any other DUIs, criminal charges, or discipline within the next three to five years.
Be Familiarized With These Topics
And now, as I said, at the school level, unfortunately, you would have to report it. Look at your employment contract or in your teacher’s handbook to see what the requirements are and what the discipline is. Are you going to be terminated or suspended? Do you have to provide proof of rehabilitation or counseling? All those things you want to take into consideration.
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. Suppose any of the following:
- Sexual Abuse
Anything like that. That’s misconduct.
Look at School Policy For Misconduct Information
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. The most common examples, I would say, probably are a DUI, domestic violence, and arrest assault.
The list goes on from there.
Be Familiar With These Topics
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.
Call an Attorney for More Information
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.
Can Arizona Teachers Be Disciplined for Social Media?
Can a teacher receive discipline for social media? It is a great question; I would say it’s relevant currently.
First, let’s start at the school level. Suppose a teacher, and I’m talking about public education, charter schools K-12. When you become employed with your school, they typically hand you a policy handbook. I’d say 99% of schools will have a policy on social media. And it will state what you can and can’t do and who you can and can’t communicate with.
From my experience, it’s expected that you can’t identify any students. Sometimes schools and policies talk about who you can and cannot communicate with through social media. If you are communicating with students, sometimes that’s just a violation of the policy. Therefore you’re likely to be disciplined by your school.
State Board of Education Disciplinary Actions
It may mean they place you on administrative leave and terminate you. But all those things are disciplines that the school could hand down. This discipline is just for communication. Again, read your policy carefully to stay within the school’s lines.
However, if there’s any inappropriate communication with students, it will be considered immoral or unprofessional conduct. The school will probably have to take it even further. School districts are mandated reporters. That said, if there’s any reasonable accusation, they can go ahead and report you to the State Board of Education.
They may investigate your license, especially if it’s emotional or discussing physical or sexual abuse. They will report you to the police, local law enforcement agencies, and child protective services. So, it’s serious. But this is all talking about communication directly with the students.
If you’re posting something online, maybe you appear impaired by drugs or alcohol. If it seems that you’re at work, that’s immoral, unprofessional conduct. And again, they will report you to the Board of Education and open an investigation.
It depends on the circumstances. But if the school finds anything they are mandated to report, that will automatically happen at the state board level. They may open an investigation and always refer to that student handbook if there is communication.
At the state level, they’re going to look and see if this will be considered immoral or unprofessional conduct. Does your interaction or post reasonable that you did endanger students’ health or safety, or well-being? If yes, they will likely discipline you at the state board level.
They have guidelines for the discipline they may hand out, anywhere from a letter of censure to suspension or suspension with conditions. There’s also revocation, which means they will revoke your license. So, it is serious. Currently, there is some talk of guidelines for social media at the Board of Education at the state level. But there are no current regulations.
Though again, unprofessional or immoral conduct is a catchall. It’s a very general phrase. And if the board feels like you are endangering a minor’s health, safety, or well-being, in any way. Then it is likely that they will open an investigation, and there could be potential discipline.
So, you want to be careful on your social media. Check your school’s policy because it will comply with the State Board of Education, or it will likely. If you follow that, then you should be okay. Still, watch everything you post and ensure it’s not harming your students in any way.
Arizona Teacher Discipline Guidelines
What do the discipline guidelines with the Arizona State Board of Education include?
Suppose a teacher undergoes disciplinary action against their license. In that case, there are categorized guidelines from the board for what discipline.
Immoral, unprofessional conduct is comprehensive, so they break it down. It might be breaking your teaching contract with your school and criminal offenses outside school. It could be DUI or assault, or things like that. Then, it goes even further if you’re impaired while at school, which might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It breaks those all down into those general disciplinary categories for teachers.
It will also discuss if you come to a settlement agreement, so you agree on finding facts and conclusions of the law.
If you contest the discipline or the accusations against you, you’ll go before the Professional Practices Advisory Committee. They would make a finding of facts and conclusions of law. You would put on evidence. If you would like, you can also examine witnesses, and legal counsel can represent you.
The Four Basic Types of Discipline
This kind of breaks it all down. Then within those categories, it’s going to list what the presumed discipline is. The state board of education has four basic types of discipline. Those are:
- Letter of censure
- Suspension with conditions, or
Now, those are the four categories of discipline. However, the board or the Professional Practices Advisory Committee will consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
Aggravating circumstances may be going to count against you. Have you been disciplined in the past? Was it for a similar offense? Things like that. Those are going to be aggravated circumstances. They’ll count charges against you.
Mitigating circumstances are going to help you. So, have you ever had any prior discipline? If you haven’t, that could be a mitigating circumstance. What were the events around the allegations? If you broke your contracts, why did you do that?
Was there a good reason? Are you leaving the teaching profession or getting hired for a better position? The list goes on and is very vague, but you can use your facts to your advantage to try to help mitigate that discipline.
Again, these are presumptive guidelines, which means they’re guidelines. So, you will hopefully use all the circumstances and facts to help your case.
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