As a Florida teacher, you make a significant impact on our society every day by educating our youth. Your role is one of the most important to make a positive impact on the community and the future. If you’re facing a complaint that puts your teaching license at risk, it’s vital that you take it seriously. No matter how trivial or minor the complaint may seem, your teaching career’s future depends on taking swift and thoughtful action to get the complaint dismissed. Failing to do so may result in severe consequences that may end your teaching career forever. It’s crucial to your future career that you hire an experienced license defense attorney.
Teachers have one of the most challenging and essential jobs as they instruct the young minds in our community. Educators in Florida work long hours to give students the necessary tools to become productive members of our society. A teacher’s responsibilities typically include:
Florida Statute Section 1012.53 describes teaching duties as:
“The primary duty of instructional personnel is to work diligently and faithfully to help students meet or exceed annual learning goals, to meet state and local achievement requirements, and to master the skills required to graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and work… The rules shall include… a teacher’s duty to help students master challenging standards and meet all state and local requirements for achievement…”
Without a valid teaching certificate, teachers cannot earn a living instructing students in Florida. An uncertified teacher will not be able to gain employment at a private or public school in Florida or any other educational facility. Florida Statutes specify that the purpose of instructional personnel certification is to guarantee teachers have the necessary knowledge, credentials, and skills to provide high-quality education in the school systems. The ultimate purpose of a teaching certificate is to protect students’ educational interests, parents, and the general public.
Whether teaching in private or public schools, all teachers in Florida must be certified through the Florida Board of Education. Florida educators can apply for one of two types of teaching certificates: A Professional Certificate and a Temporary Certificate. The Bureau of Educator Certification (BEC) is responsible for enforcing the certification requirements under Florida Statutes and State Board of Education administrative rules.
If a teacher violates any policy with the Board of Education or the Principles of Professional Conduct that all Florida teachers are bound to, they may lose their employment and their teaching certificate. Misconduct that may result in a teacher receiving a complaint that may result in disciplinary action includes:
Off-campus conduct in violation of Florida Statutes such as drug usage or an arrest can also result in a complaint or disciplinary action against a teacher.
If someone wished to file a complaint against a Florida teacher, they would do so by contacting the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and completing a Complaint Form. The Office of Professional Practices Services (PPS) reviews complaints on behalf of the FDOE to determine if it’s legally sufficient to pursue an investigation.
If so, a case is opened, and an investigator with the PPS will be assigned. The educator and their employing school or school district would then be notified of the open investigation.
The investigation consists of gathering enough information to decide whether the complaint can proceed to the next step.
Information gathered during an investigation generally includes:
Once all pertinent information has been obtained, a meeting is offered for the teacher to review the information. The teacher can then provide an explanation, denial, or other documents.
As a teaching professional, it’s highly advised that you hire an experienced professional license defense attorney to help you build a strong response to the investigation procedure. Often, an experienced attorney can end the investigation process at its earliest stages, preventing you from withstanding further harm to your career or reputation.
If the investigation procures enough proof to move the allegation to the next step, the complaint will be reviewed by the FDOE. That will typically involve members of the FDOE, their attorneys, and the Commissioner of Education who review the documents and evidence tied to the complaint.
During this process, it’s vital that you have your defense lawyer, and you do not attempt to handle the situation alone.
The panel review can result in three possible outcomes:
A finding of “No Probable Cause” is a dismissal of the case, which means there was not enough evidence proving that you violated any rule or regulation. A finding of Probable Cause means that the teacher was found to be guilty of conduct that warrants disciplinary action against their certificate and would result in an Administrative Complaint.
An Administrative Complaint against you defines the statements and evidence against you found during the investigation, along with the specific laws or regulations that you’re accused of violating. After consulting with your attorney, you can choose to appear either an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.
If you choose to proceed with an Informal Hearing, that means you do not wish to dispute any of the accusations against you, nor do you plan to bring any new evidence to light. Instead, you’re acknowledging the complaints, and you’ll face the Education Practices Commission (EPC), where they’ll make a final decision on what penalties will be imposed against you.
If you wish to dispute the allegations and facts found against you during the investigation, you proceed with a Formal Hearing. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ hears the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the EPC. The EPC then makes a final decision concerning disciplinary actions.
At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team investigates every case in detail to learn the facts and how to proceed. In general, some complaints against teachers, like accusations of drug use or sexual conduct, can go to criminal court and face criminal charges. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer who handles professional license defense is vital.
Our lawyers can help you in some of the following ways:
If you have been cited for committing an act that may prompt the Florida Board of Education or Education Practices Commission to invalidate or suspend your teaching certificate, contact The Umansky Law Firm to fight for you. As experienced trial lawyers, we know the evidence laws and can create a defense for you that may include dismissal of the complaint or allegation that you face.
The Umansky Law Firm attorneys include former prosecutors and defense lawyers and can help ensure that you get the full benefit of your rights and offer the best information and arguments to protect your teaching career. To speak with an administrative lawyer today, complete an online contact form or call.
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