When you are a certified educator in Texas, you must follow the rules and laws that apply to your profession, or you can face disciplinary action by the Texas Education Agency (TEA)’s State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). For instance, resigning from a teaching position without following the proper protocols can lead to discipline. The consequences of disciplinary actions can be significant because they can threaten your license and career.
In this situation, you need an experienced teaching license defense lawyer to protect your license. Seeking strong legal representation in advance helps you avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your career.
Guidelines for Resigning While on Contract Under the Texas Education Code
Whether they have a probationary, continuing, or term contract, contract educator employees are subject to certain timeframes for resigning before the school year begins under Tex. Ed. Code §§ 21.105, 21.160, and 21.210. Under these code sections, teachers must resign no later than 45 days before the first day of instruction for an upcoming school year. If you resign outside this timeframe, you can face disciplinary action against your teaching certificate for “abandoning” your contract. This situation can result in the suspension of your teaching certificate.
19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.17 provides for a few exceptions to this general rule:
- Serious illness or health condition of the educator or a close family member;
- Relocation to a new city as a result of a job change for the educator’s spouse or a partner who lives with them;
- Significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires the educator to relocate or devote more time than allowed by their current employment; and
- The educator’s reasonable belief that they had written permission from the school district administration to resign.
If you don’t meet one of these exceptions, you must apply for a contract release from the school board. The board may or may not grant your request for a release; if you are not granted a release, then your only option is to abandon your contract and face any consequences flowing from that abandonment, such as the school district filing a complaint against you with the SBEC.
Determining Sanctions for Abandoning a Teaching Contract
If the school district files a complaint against you for abandoning your contract, the SBEC must determine the appropriate sanctions against you, including any mitigating factors relevant to your conduct. The SBEC also may consider alternatives to sanctions, including additional continuing education training.
Under 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.17(d)(2), the SBEC may consider certain mitigating factors in determining the sanctions you will receive for abandoning your contract. More specifically, the SBEC will consider whether you:
- gave written notice to the school district 30 days or more in advance of the first day of instruction for which the educator will not be present;
- assisted the school district in finding a replacement educator to fill the position;
- continued to work until the school district hired a replacement educator;
- assisted in training the replacement educator;
- showed good faith in communications and negotiations with the school district;
- provided lesson plans for classes following the educator’s resignation;
- changed careers within the field of education:
- to a position that required a different class of educator certification as defined in §230.33(b) of this title (relating to Classes of Certificates);
- to a position with a higher level of authority within the principal class of certificate; or
- to a position in an open-enrollment charter school or a district of innovation that is equivalent to the positions described in clauses (i) and (ii) of this subparagraph;
- had a reduction in base pay, excluding stipends, as compared to the educator’s base pay for the prior year at the same school district;
- resigned due to working conditions that reasonably posed an immediate threat of significant physical harm to the educator; or
- any other relevant circumstances or facts.
Potential Sanctions for Contract Abandonment
19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.17(d)(3) provides mandatory sanctions for contract abandonment. If the educator abandons the contract between 44 and 30 days before the first day of instruction for the school year, if no exceptions or mitigating factors apply, SBEC will give the educator an inscribed reprimand.
If you fail to file a timely written resignation at least 45 days before the first day of school instruction but you do so at least 30 days before the first day, then the SBEC may not suspend or revoke your teaching certificate as a remedy.
However, if you abandon a contract less than 30 days before the first day of instruction for the school year or any point during the school year where no exceptions or mitigating factors apply, you will receive a sanction that is not less than:
- suspension for one year from the first day that, without district permission, the educator failed to appear for work under the contract, provided that the educator has not worked as an educator during that year and the case is resolved within that one year through an agreed final order; or
- suspension for one year from either the effective date of an agreed final order resolving the case or an agreed future date at the beginning of the following school year if the educator has worked as an educator after abandoning the contract; or
- suspension for one year from the date the SBEC adopts an order that becomes final following a default before a disciplinary hearing or a contested case hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Nonetheless, the factors listed in subsection (c) of this section and paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection may mitigate an educator’s sanction so significantly that the SBEC takes no disciplinary action.
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Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your Teaching Certificate Before the TEA
If you are contemplating resignation from your teaching position or facing allegations of misconduct from the TEA, you need a seasoned teaching license defense attorney on your side. We will tirelessly defend you against these allegations and work to protect the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Contact Bertolino LLP today at (512) 980-3751 or visit us online.