Texas teachers work incredibly hard to receive the proper education and training to teach in the state. Nonetheless, even the best teacher can experience issues resulting in a complaint or allegation of misconduct. Teachers should know what actions and omissions can result in discipline and revocation of their teaching certificate.
Which Organization Regulates Teaching Certificate in Texas?
Under the Teacher Education Agency (TEA), the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) oversees all disciplinary proceedings for education misconduct in the State of Texas. Therefore, any individual that holds a teaching certificate under Chapter 21, Subchapter B of the Texas Education Code can be investigated and disciplined by the SBEC.
Are Paraprofessionals Also Regulated and Disciplined by the SBEC?
The definition of paraprofessional includes teachers, librarians, consolers, educational diagnosticians, school administrators, and other paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals are also regulated and disciplined by the SBEC.
Certification applicants and examinees, educators in a professional program, and individuals who were erroneously issued a teaching certificate are also regulated, investigated, and disciplined by the SBEC.
Actions that Could Result in the Disciplining of a Teacher
The types of actions a teacher can commit resulting in discipline from the SBEC can vary. Such acts can include:
- The violation of a state or federal law
- The violation of the state Code of Ethics for educators
- A breach of the security or integrity of state assessment test
- Abandonment of a teaching contract
- A failure to report or the hindering of a report of child abuse
- A failure to report or the impeding of a report of the known criminal history of an educator as required by law
- The failure to cooperate with an SBEC investigation
- The conviction of a crime relating to the duties or responsibilities of being an educator
- Actions that the SBEC believes need to be disciplined in accordance with state law
What Constitutes the Resignation or Abandonment of a Teaching Contract?
Texas state law requires that certain education professionals – including teachers, counselors, librarians, and other paraprofessionals – sign employment contracts with their employers. The Texas Educational Code places employment constraints on educators in these positions. Generally, educators under contract may not terminate their employment within 45 days of the beginning of the school year, as this is considered an abandonment of their contract.
Educators who are found to have abandoned their contract risk discipline by the SBEC. Texas law provides exceptions to this rule, including:
- Addressing a personal health issue or that of a family member
- The relocation of one’s spouse for professional reasons
- The educator’s relocation due to a change in family needs
Educators who do not qualify for an “exception” may petition their local school board to request a contract release. However, the school district may deny the petition and file a complaint if the educator abandons their contract.
How the SBEC Identifies Crimes that Violate an Educator’s Duties and Responsibilities
The SBEC has identified the following forms of criminal activity that directly conflict with an educator’s “duties and responsibilities” of their profession:
- Moral turpitude crimes
- Crimes involving the sexual or physical abuse of a minor or student
- Other illicit or illegal conduct with a minor
- Drug crimes
- Criminal activity involving school property or funds
- Fraudulent or criminal activity involving the obtaining of a teaching certificate or permit
- Criminal activity on school property or during a school-authorized activity
- Being convicted of two or more crimes within 12 months that involve public intoxication, DUI, or disorderly conduct
Steps the SBEC Can Take to Discipline a Teacher
Once an educator has been found to have committed misconduct, the SBEC can take certain steps to discipline the educator. Although not all situations result in the revocation of a teaching license or permit, every case is different and can result in various actions taken by the SBEC.
SBEC disciplines can include:
- The withdrawal from an educator preparation program
- The temporary or permanent placement of restrictions on the issuance, renewal, or holding of a certificate
- The issuance of a reprimand. Non-inscribed reprimands are formal, unpublished censures that do not appear on an educator’s certification records, while inscribed reprimands are different in that they do.
- The suspension of a teaching certificate for a set term
- The revocation or cancellation of a teaching certificate which can include the surrender of the certificate without the opportunity to reapply. This ban can be indefinite or permanent.
Can Anyone Submit a Complaint to the SBEC?
Yes. Anyone can submit a complaint, so long as the complaint includes the name and address of the person filing the complaint. Those seeking to submit a complaint regarding an educator or paraprofessional’s alleged misconduct must mail their complaint to the SBEC.
For the SBEC to consider the complaint, it must include substantive information regarding the nature of the alleged misconduct, the names and addresses of any witnesses involved, and the contact information of the person filing the complaint.
When Should an Educator Consult with Legal Counsel Regarding a Complaint?
Every situation is different, and not all complaints result in discipline. If that were the case, then minor infractions or an allegation would essentially eliminate the profession of teaching. Nonetheless, if an educator receives a notification of a complaint by the SBEC, or believes a complaint has been filed against them, then he or she should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Even though allegations, investigations, or complaints may not result in discipline, an educator should be cautious when addressing these issues. While revoking one’s license may not lead to termination, Texas state law effectively bars anyone from educating students without a valid license. Thus, educators should always take SBEC investigations and complaints seriously.
Our Attorneys Can Help Protect Your Teaching License
The Bertolino Law Firm has experience representing licensed professionals, including teachers, against misconduct allegations. If you are a Texas teacher and have received a notification by the SBEC regarding your license or believe someone has submitted a complaint against you, contact our office for help.