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. Other topics of interest:
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.
Possible Forms of Abuse on Students
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.
Search for School Policy Guidelines
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.
Getting a Lawyer as an Advantage
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.
Arizona Teacher Discipline Guidelines | Disciplinary 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 guidelines from the board for what discipline. The guidelines are categorized. 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, 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.
Then it will also talk about if you come to a settlement agreement. So, you agree on finding facts and conclusions of 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.
State Board of Education Four Basic Types of Discipline
So, this kind of breaks it all down. Then within those categories, it’s going to list what the presumed discipline is. And the state board of education has four basic types of discipline. Those are a letter of censure, a suspension, a suspension with conditions or revocation. 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 circumstances 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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