Can Arizona Teachers Be Disciplined for Social Media? | Teacher Discipline
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.
Social Media Policy for Teachers
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.
Discipline for Violating School Policy
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.
Posting Inappropriate Content
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.
Getting Reported to Arizona Board
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.
Just Do No Harm
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.
Other topics of interest:
- What Can Happen When an Arizona Teacher Verbally Abuses a Student?
- Arizona Teacher Misappropriation of Funds
- Arizona Teacher Lying on an Application
Arizona Teacher Unprofessional Conduct Dismissal
What is unprofessional or immoral conduct for teachers 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.
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.
Arizona Teacher Substance Abuse Issues
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 Articles 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.
Arizona Teacher Sexual Relationship with a Student
What are the issues if there’s ever an allegation of a teacher having a relationship of sexual nature with a student?
So, the school would likely start there. If the school found a credible allegation of a sexual relationship, they’d possibly immediately put the educator on administrative leave. If not, ask for the resignation or terminate them immediately. And when I say sexual relationship, I also include sexual abuse. So, these are very serious.
Sexual Relationship or Sexual Abuse with a Minor
The school is a mandated reporter, so they likely immediately report this to local authorities or police. Also, police will be investigating this because it is a crime. The department of child services may investigate as well.
Furthermore, they’ll report you to the State Board of Education. They’ll conduct their investigation if they think there’s a finding of any relationship of sexual nature or abuse with a minor. It can mean communications, physical, social media, etc. It is more of a broad term.
You want to be very careful to understand that. It is taken very seriously, of course, by all those administrative agencies. There would likely be a hearing at the state board level unless you decided or agreed to revoke your license.
If not, they would conduct an administrative hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee.
Teacher License Revocation by the American Board
They would make a finding of fact and conclusions of law if they did think there was a finding that there’s a relationship of sexual nature or abuse.
According to the State Board of Education guidelines, they would revoke the educator’s license if there was any relationship or abuse. It’s serious because the offense is severe. And so, that’s where it would usually go.
The Professional Practices Advisory Committee would then take their findings to the State Board of Education. And they would likely either affirm, deny, or amend their conclusions. Again, you may attend an administrative hearing at the state level if you disagree with the discipline.
Victim, Parents, and Staff Interview
At the school level, people would likely ask you to resign or terminate you. The investigation starts at the school level and would involve an interview with the victim or all the students involved. Maybe the alleged victim’s parents, family, and staff. They would go through communications that you allegedly had with the victim. And they might even look at video or audio evidence.
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, they’ll likely 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 the parent or 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 note this. 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 notify child protective services.
Verbal abuse, or any abuse, has a definition in Arizona statutes. It’s anything that can affect students’ safety, health, or well-being. So, if you verbally affected the student’s well-being somehow. Then, the school would likely find that there was potentially 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 of discipline at the state board level. You will get a letter of:
- Suspension with conditions
- Revocation of the educator’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 hearing with the Professional Practices Advisory Committee if you can’t agree. This hearing is much like an administrative hearing.
You can put on the following:
- 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. The board will either affirm, amend, or deny their recommendations. 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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