The Florida Teacher Disciplinary Process can be a scary – don’t go it alone.
What Happens When a Teacher is Accused of Misconduct?
As a Florida teacher, you have been accused of some wrongdoing by you school district and subjected to a disciplinary process. Maybe you were successful in having the school district not pursue the issue or you received a minor sanction, perhaps a letter of reprimand. You believe that your troubles are over, until a certified letter is delivered to you from the Florida Department of Education. It reads, “Be advised that a case has been opened against you with the Offices of Professional Practice Services…” What does any of this mean? You resolved the issue with your school district. You may have, but this does not limit the Florida Department of Education from taking any whatever additional action it deems necessary.As a holder of a teaching license, you subject yourself to oversight and regulations of the Florida Department of Education (FDOE or FLDOE). The FDOE is not bound by anything that the school district may or may not do. The Florida teacher disciplinary process can be complicated and it is not advised to “go it alone.”
The Florida teacher disciplinary process is slow-moving and can be frustrated for the teacher. Once you receive the initial notification, you have ten days to forward to the FDOE any evidence or witnesses that you feel may assist your case. The problem with this is that you really cannot be sure what exactly the FDOE is investigating. You probably have an idea, but you cannot be certain. Therefore, there is a risk to supplying information so early in the case without knowing all of the facts first.When teachers hire me for representation at this early stage it is always a good thing. I contact the FDOE and advise that I am representing the teacher. This way, no further direct communication with the teacher will occur.Once this happens, the FDOE will begin its investigation. Although the FDOE will not release any information to the teacher until the investigation is complete, there are things that can be done during this waiting game. I find that it is helpful to request the teacher’s complete district/school file ourselves. This normally gives the teacher a pretty good idea of what the allegations are and what the evidence will consist of. We can then begin planning our own defense and strategy.Once the investigation is completed, the teacher will be given an opportunity to meet with the investigator. At this meeting the investigatory file will be made available and the teacher has an opportunity to respond. This can be an opportunity. Depending on the nature of the case, I may prepare a rebuttal to send to the investigator a few days after the meeting. I want the teacher’s narrative to be heard. I want the FDOE to know our evidence and our defenses. You want the ultimate decision maker to know the potential problems with the FDOE’s case before probable cause is found, not after.
Probable Cause (Or Not)
Once the investigator has compiled everything, including any rebuttal from the teacher, the materials are sent to be reviewed by an attorney at the FLDOE. That attorney will then make a determination as to whether probable cause exists to issue charges. If a strong rebuttal/defense has been presented, this could preclude a finding of probable cause. If not, it could certainly lessen the severity of any proposed sanctions.
Depending on what next occurs, several different scenarios could play out. If no probable cause is found the case is over. If it is found, then the teacher will be provided an Election of Rights Form. Here the teacher can select various options on moving forward such as a formal hearing, an informal hearing, or exploring settlement. I will write a separate post on this phase of the case but the bottom line is, whatever route is best for the teacher, the good preparation work and strong defensive position that we have done for the teacher will serve the teacher well going forward.Do not let others fool you, mounting a strong defense takes work. You need to show and give reasons to the FLDOE why you should not be sanctioned or that the sanctions proposed are not justified. Making a phone call or showing up at a meeting is not enough. Asselta Law is dedicated to providing teachers the thorough and detailed representation that not only they deserve, but what is needed to obtain a favorable result.Richard Asselta is an experienced teacher lawyer who mounts an articulate and thorough defense for his clients. There are several terms for teacher discipline such as educator misconduct or teacher misconduct. Whichever the term, don’t face the FLDOE alone. If you are facing a Florida teacher disciplinary process – protect your teaching license, career, and livelihood. Call today for a free consultation. Asselta Lawoffers flat-fees and payment plans. All credit and debit cards accepted. (855) EDU-LAWYER.