Potential Sanctions that Teachers May Face in Disciplinary

Texas teachers, principals, and other educational professionals are subject to the Texas Board of Education (TEA) licensing requirements. The State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC), a TEA division, regulates and monitors these licensed professionals for compliance with laws and regulations related to them. As a result, SBEC receives all complaints against licensees and takes disciplinary action against them as needed. 

An experienced teaching license defense attorney at Bertolino LLP will represent you in your disciplinary proceedings before the SBEC. No matter what laws or rules violations your case involves, we can review your case and determine the most effective defense strategy. When you are subject to disciplinary proceedings, you will benefit from the services of an educator’s license defense lawyer to protect your career. The aggressive and proactive legal representation that we can provide may help you avoid the potentially harsh sanctions that could adversely affect your reputation and career.

Potential SBEC Sanctions

19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.15 sets forth the potential sanctions that the SBEC can impose against teachers and other educational professionals if they violate a rule or law that pertains to their profession:

  • Restrict the issuance, renewal, or holding of an educator’s certificate, either indefinitely or for a set period;
  • Issue a reprimand;
  • Suspend an educator’s certificate for a set period or issue a probated suspension for a set period;
  • Revoke or cancel an educator’s certificate, which may involve accepting the surrender of a certificate with restrictions or a permanent prohibition on the ability to reapply;
  • Impose any conditions or restrictions upon an educator’s certificate necessary to facilitate the rehabilitation of the educator or to protect student, parents, or school personnel or officials; or
  • Assess an administrative penalty ranging from $500 to $10,000 on a superintendent or director who fails to file a timely required report or a principal who fails to make a timely required notification. 

Factors for Determining Sanctions in Disciplinary Cases

Although SBEC has the ultimate decision-making authority to determine sanctions in disciplinary cases, 19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17 outlines various factors for the TEA, SBEC, and administrative law judges (ALJs) hearing disciplinary cases to utilize. These guidelines ensure consistency in the sanctions that educators receive through SBEC disciplinary proceedings, whether they resolve them through settlement negotiations or contested administrative hearings. Decisionmakers should consider these factors as they determine the appropriate sanctions for the violations in the disciplinary proceedings.

The factors for consideration include:

  • The severity of the violation;
  • Any evidence of premeditation or intentional behavior;
  • Any attempt to conceal the misconduct;
  • A history of disciplinary proceedings and sanctions;
  • The potential danger that the violation causes to the health and welfare of students;
  • The impact of the conduct on the victims;
  • The length of time that has passed since the misconduct and whether evidence shows that rehabilitation has occurred;
  • Whether the misconduct has affected the educator’s good moral character and their ability to act as a proper role model for students;
  • Whether the sanction will deter the educator from future violations; and
  • Any other relevant circumstances or facts.

Furthermore, contract abandonment is a specific ground for disciplinary proceedings against educators in some circumstances. Therefore, 19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17(d) addresses factors that decisionmakers must consider in assessing sanctions in disciplinary proceedings based on contract abandonment.

Educators may have good cause to abandon their contracts in any of the following situations:

  • Serious illness or medical condition of themselves or their close family member;
  • Relocation due to their spouse or partner’s change in employment; 
  • A significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires relocation or more attention to family needs than allowed by the current employment contract; or
  • The educator’s reasonable belief they had written permission from school district administration to resign.

Additionally, Texas law recognizes some mitigating factors that decisionmakers must consider when determining the appropriate sanctions in contract abandonment cases. These factors include:

  • Providing 30 days or more written notice to the school district before leaving the contract;
  • Helping the school district find a replacement;
  • Continuing to work until the school district finds a replacement;
  • Helping the school district train a replacement;
  • Showing good faith in communicating and negotiating with the school district;
  • Providing advance lesson plans for the educator’s replacement;
  • Changing careers within the field of education that involves:
    • A position requiring a different class of educator certification,
    • A position with a higher level of authority within the principal class of certificate; or
    • A position in an open-enrollment charter school or a district of innovation equivalent to one of these positions. 
  • Experiencing a reduction in base pay, excluding stipends, as compared to the prior year in the same school district;
  • Experiencing working conditions that reasonably posed an immediate threat of significant physical harm to the educator; or 
  • Any other relevant circumstances or facts.

Mandatory Minimum Sanctions

19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.15 also provides for some mandatory minimum sanctions for some types of violations by educators that result in disciplinary proceedings. Regardless of whether mitigating factors may apply, decisionmakers still must impose mandatory minimum sanctions in the following situations:

  • The educator must complete a period of deferred adjudication or community supervision for a felony-level criminal offense under state or federal law;
  • The educator must complete a period of deferred adjudication, community supervision, or pretrial diversion for a misdemeanor-level criminal offense under state or federal law;
  • The educator has intentionally engaged in a test security violation involving a mandatory test;
  • The educator has tested positive for, was under the influence of, or was in possession of drugs or alcohol while on a school campus;
  • The educator failed to report educator misconduct as required; 
  • The educator engaged in sexual contact or a romantic relationship with a student or minor; or
  • The educator engaged in certain specific crimes, including the possession or distribution of child pornography, any crime requiring registration as a sex offender, criminal homicide, controlled substances offenses on school property that would be at least a Class A misdemeanor under Texas law, intentional, knowing, or reckless bodily injury to a student or minor, and other felony offenses in which the victim is under 18 years old at the time of the offense. 

19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17(d)(3) also requires mandatory minimum sanctions in cases of contract abandonment in some circumstances. For instance, an educator who abandons a contract within 30-44 days before the first day of instruction for the school year without mitigating factors must receive an inscribed reprimand. An educator who abandons a contract less than 30 days before the first day of instruction for the school year or at any time during the school year without mitigating factors shall receive a one-year suspension in some circumstances. 

Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your Teaching License 

When you receive a complaint that could negatively impact your educator’s license and career, you need an experienced teaching license defense attorney to represent your interests throughout any disciplinary proceedings. No matter the situation, the stakes during these proceedings are very high. Our job is to tirelessly defend you against SBEC disciplinary proceedings and enable you to keep the credentials and career that you have worked so hard to earn. Contact Bertolino LLP today at (512) 980-3751 or visit us online.

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