The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), a division of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), is the state agency that regulates education professionals as well as handles complaints, investigations, and disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary action against teachers and other education professionals can lead to severe sanctions. If you are facing disciplinary proceedings that may adversely affect your education certification, contact a teacher license defense attorney for help. 

Potential Sanctions for Disciplinary Action by SBEC

Under 19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.15, the SBEC can impose any of the following sanctions in response to satisfactory evidence that an education professional has violated one or more rules or laws governing the profession. Potential sanctions include the following:

  • Placement of restrictions on the issuance, renewal, or holding of a certificate, either indefinitely or for a specific period;
  • Issuance of an inscribed or non-inscribed reprimand;
  • Suspension of a certificate for a specific period or issuance of a probated suspension for a specific period;
  • Revocation or cancellation, which includes accepting the surrender of a certificate without opportunity for reapplication for a specific period or permanently;
  • Imposition of any conditions or restrictions upon a certificate that the SBEC finds necessary to facilitate the rehabilitation and professional development of the educator or to protect students, parents of students, school personnel, or school officials; or
  • Imposition of an administrative penalty of $500-$10,000 on a superintendent or director who fails to file timely a required report or on a principal who fails to make a timely required notification to a superintendent or director.

Decision-Making Guidelines for Determining Sanctions in Disciplinary Cases

Although the SBEC retains the discretion to make final decisions in disciplinary cases, 19 Tex. Admin. §249.17 provides decision-making guidelines as an analytic framework for the TEA, SBEC, and administrative law judges hearing disciplinary cases. The guidelines aim to promote consistency in the outcome of disciplinary proceedings and informal resolution of potentially contested matters. 

First, the guidelines call for the consideration of the following factors in “seeking, proposing, or making a decision” in a disciplinary proceeding:

  • the seriousness of the violation;
  • whether the misconduct was premeditated or intentional;
  • any attempted concealment of misconduct;
  • a history of prior misconduct and SBEC sanctions;
  • any potential danger the conduct poses to the health and welfare of students;
  • the effects of the prior conduct upon any victims;
  • whether sufficient time has passed and sufficient evidence demonstrates that the educator has been rehabilitated;
  • the effects of the conduct on the educator’s good moral character and ability to be a proper role model for students;
  • whether the sanction will deter future violations; and
  • any other relevant circumstances or facts.

Factors Related to Educator Contract Abandonment

Contract abandonment can violate the rules that apply to educators and, as a result, can lead to disciplinary action. This code section provides a range of factors to consider when disciplinary action involves allegations that a teacher has abandoned his or her educator contract. 

Good Cause

The following factors may constitute worthy cause for abandonment:

  • serious illness or health condition of the educator or their close family member;
  • relocation to a new city because of a change in the employer of the educator’s spouse or partner;
  • a significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires relocation or the devotion of more time to family than allowed by current employment; or
  • the educator’s reasonable belief that the educator had written permission from the school district administration to resign.

Mitigating Factors

The following factors may result in an educator receiving a lesser sanction. These factors include situations in which the educator:

  • gave written notice to the school district 30 days or more in advance of leaving;
  • 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;
    • 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 above;
  • 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.

Mandatory Sanctions for Contract Abandonment

19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17(d)(3) outlines mandatory sanctions for an educator who abandons a contract, as follows:

  • An educator subject to sanction, who has abandoned a contract 44-30 days before the first day of instruction for the following school year in a case where mitigating factors do not mitigate or apply, shall receive a sanction of an inscribed reprimand.
  • An educator subject to sanction, who has abandoned a contract less than 30 days before the first day of instruction for the following school year or at any point during the school year in a case where mitigating factors do not mitigate or apply, shall receive a sanction of 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 or a contested case hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).

However, if relevant mitigating factors apply, the SBEC may take no disciplinary action against an educator in some circumstances. 

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Mandatory Minimum Sanctions for Various Violations

This code section also outlines mandatory minimum sanctions for some violations of rules or laws by educators that result in disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, even if mitigating factors apply, some sanctions are mandatory in some situations, no matter the circumstances. For example, suppose a court has ordered an educator to complete a period of deferred adjudication, community supervision, or pretrial diversion for a misdemeanor-level criminal offense under state or federal law. In that case, SBEC may not impose less than an inscribed reprimand on the educator in disciplinary proceedings. 

A mandatory minimum sanction also exists for educators who intentionally manipulate or violate the security or confidential integrity of any required test. In this situation, SBEC may impose not less than a one-year suspension. The suspension runs from the effective date of an agreed final order or a final board hearing following a contested case hearing at SOAH. 

Mandatory minimum sanctions also exist for educators who test positive for drugs or alcohol while on a school campus, commit certain crimes, or fail to report educator misconduct as required. 

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We Are Here to Help You Fight Back and Protect Your Educational License

The teacher certification defense lawyers of Bertolino LLP, can help you navigate the complaint process and gather the evidence you need to defend your license or other educational certification. In addition, we can fight back against the allegations that you are facing and work to clear your name. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.

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