One Texas Education Agency (TEA) division is the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which regulates and certifies education professionals. This board also receives complaints, performs investigations, and files disciplinary proceedings against educators when needed. Disciplinary proceedings against teachers and other education professionals can lead to severe sanctions. If you are facing disciplinary proceedings that may negatively affect your education certification, contact an educator license defense attorney for help.
Disciplinary Action Against an Educator’s Certificate
Under 19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.15, the SBEC can impose any of the following sanctions on education professionals if it finds that they have violated one or more rules or laws that govern the profession:
- Place restrictions on the issuance, renewal, or holding of a certificate, either indefinitely or for a specific period;
- Issue an inscribed or non-inscribed reprimand;
- Suspend a certificate for a specific period or issue a probated suspension for a specific period;
- Revoke or cancel a certificate, which includes accepting the surrender of a certificate with no opportunity for reapplication for a specific period or permanently;
- Impose 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
- Impose an administrative penalty of $500-$10,000 on a superintendent or director who fails to file a required report timely or on a principal who fails to make a required notification timely.
Decision-Making Guidelines for Determining Sanctions in Disciplinary Cases
The SBEC retains the discretion to make final decisions in disciplinary cases. However, 19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17 establishes decision-making guidelines for the TEA, SBEC, and administrative law judges when hearing disciplinary cases. These guidelines aim to promote consistency in the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings, whether they are resolved informally by settlement or through contested case proceedings.
This code section states that the TEA, SBEC, and ALJs may consider the following factors in deciding the appropriate sanctions in disciplinary proceedings:
- 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 exists of rehabilitation;
- 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 Contract Abandonment
Educators who abandon their contracts may violate the rules and laws that apply to their profession. As a result, they may face disciplinary action if they abandon their contracts.
19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17(d) outlines factors that the TEA, SBEC, and ALJs may consider as good cause for contract abandonment by educators:
- 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 require 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.
19 Tex. Admin. Code §249.17(d)(2) provides mitigating factors or factors that the TEA, SBEC, and ALJs shall consider in determining the appropriate sanction for disciplinary action related to contract abandonment. The existence of these factors could result in lesser sanctions for the educator and include the following:
- Providing written notice to the school district 30 days or more in advance of leaving;
- Assisting the school district in finding a replacement educator to fill the position;
- Continuing to work until the school district hired a replacement educator;
- assisted in training the replacement educator;
- Showing good faith in communicating and negotiating with the school district;
- Providing lesson plans for classes following the educator’s resignation;
- Changing 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;
- Experiencing a reduction in base pay, excluding stipends, as compared to the educator’s base pay for the prior year at the same school district;
- Resigning 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) provides for mandatory sanctions for educators who abandon a contract in the following situations:
- An educator who abandoned a contract 44-30 days before the first day of instruction for the school year without mitigating factors shall receive a sanction of an inscribed reprimand.
- An educator who abandoned a contract less than 30 days before the first day of instruction for the school year or at any point during the school year without mitigating factors 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, mitigating factors may cause the SBEC to take no disciplinary action against an educator, depending on the circumstances.
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Mandatory Minimum Sanctions for Other Violations
This code section also contains mandatory minimum sanctions for some violations of applicable rules or laws by educators that lead to disciplinary proceedings. Even if mitigating factors apply to these situations, some sanctions are mandatory. For example, suppose a court has ordered an educator to complete a period of deferred adjudication or community supervision for a felony-level criminal offense under state or federal law. In that case, SBEC must suspend the educator in disciplinary proceedings; the duration of the suspension depends on the point at which the case is resolved during the disciplinary proceedings.
Mandatory minimum sanctions also exist under this code sanction for educators in any of the following circumstances:
- A court has ordered the educator to complete a period of deferred adjudication, community supervision, or pretrial diversion for a misdemeanor-level criminal offense under state or federal law;
- Educators who intentionally manipulate or violate the security or confidential integrity of any required test;
- Educators who test positive for, are under the influence of, or in possession of drugs or alcohol while on a school campus;
- Educators who fail to report educator misconduct as required; and
- Educators who commit sanctioned misconduct in another state.
Furthermore, educators are subject to permanent revocation of their teaching certificates if they:
- Engage in any sexual contact or romantic relationship with a student or minor;
- Solicit any sexual contact or romantic relationship with a student or minor;
- Possess or distribute child pornography;
- Are registered as a sex offender;
- Commit criminal homicide;
- Transfer, sell, distribute, or conspire to possess, transfer, sell, or distribute any controlled substance, the possession of which would be at least a Class A misdemeanor under Texas law, on school property;
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to a student or minor when the conduct of the educator or applicant is not immune from disciplinary proceedings; or
- Commit any offense described in the TEC, §21.058, which includes all crimes in which the educator is required to register as a sex offender and felony offenses under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code in which the victim is under 18 years old at the time of the commission of the offense.
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We Are Here to Help You Fight Back and Protect Your Educational License
At Bertolino LLP, you will find teacher certification defense lawyers to guide you through the complaint process and help you obtain the evidence you need to defend your educational certification. We are here to help you fight back against the allegations against you and preserve your career. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.