What is Educator Misconduct?
What is educator misconduct?
Misconduct occurs in various forms and ranges in severity from allegations of direct harm to students (such as physical or sexual abuse) to an act detrimental to the education profession (such as falsifying documentation of continuing education courses or cheating on a professional exam). For the most part, misconduct by educators occurs either on the school campus or with members of the school community, but can also be something that happens outside of the school environment and does not involve students.
How do I check the status of an individual’s Florida Educator Certificate?
To view the certification status of any Florida educator, you can search by his or her name at the Department of Education’s Bureau of Educator Certification teacher look-up.
The Department of Education also hosts a website, MyFloridaTeacher.com, where the public can search an online database to see if disciplinary action has been taken against a Florida Educator Certificate.
Who should I contact if I believe an educator has acted inappropriately?
If the person of your concern is a teacher, contact your school principal or administrator so the school's administration is aware of your issues or concerns. If the person of your concern is a school administrator, contact the local district office of human resources, charter school administration or private school administration. Every school district, charter school and private school has its own process for reviewing alleged employee misconduct. Often this review is conducted by the Office of Human Resources, Personnel, Office of Professional Standards, and in some school districts, the school's police. Contact information for each Florida public school district may be found at http://www.fldoe.org/accountability/data-sys/school-dis-data/superintendents.stml.
In cases where you believe the conduct may be criminal, it is appropriate to contact local law enforcement. If at any time you suspect that a child has been harmed or is threatened with harm by a licensed educator, you may contact the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) toll-free at 1-800-96-ABUSE. Further information about reporting abuse may be found on the DCF website at www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse.
What are the responsibilities of the state’s Office of Professional Practices Services?
The PPS investigates legally sufficient (supported by ultimate facts) allegations of misconduct by certified educators when that misconduct, being true, would constitute a sanction (disciplinary action) against the individual's Florida Educator Certificate. The authority of the office may be found in Section 1012.796, Florida Statutes.
What is the jurisdiction of the state’s Office of Professional Practices Services?
The only jurisdiction of the PPS is a Florida Educator Certificate or application for a Florida Educator Certificate. The PPS has no authority in matters regarding persons who are not Florida certified educators such as bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, support staff, volunteers, non-certified substitute teachers and non-certified district administrators.
What type of complaints does the Office of Professional Practices Services pursue?
The scope of what may be investigated by the Office is defined by Florida Statutes and State Board of Education Rule. Only supported violations of the statute and Principles of Professional Conduct the Education Profession in Florida may be investigated by the PPS.
Example 1: Teacher Mr. Jones, in an attempt to quiet 2nd grade student Mark, placed duct tape over Mark’s mouth and this allegation was supported by written witness testimony.
Example 2: Teacher Ms. Call was found guilty of being in possession of marijuana.
Are all complaints investigated?
No. The PPS is not the employer and does not review employment related matters nor does it conduct third party reviews of local level decisions. Florida law requires that complaints must be "legally sufficient." Legally sufficient means that the allegation has been supported as being true and the conduct would violate pertinent Florida Statutes or State Board of Education Rules (Principles of Professional Conduct). Additionally the conduct must warrant a sanction against the educator's certificate.
Example: Parent alleges teacher Ms. Smith gave her son, Peter, a detention because he failed to turn in his homework. The PPS would not investigate this or a similar complaint as student discipline is a decision determined by the local school or school district.
What happens when a complaint is opened with the state’s Office of Professional Practices Services?
Complaints are reviewed for jurisdiction and legal sufficiency. If determined to be legally sufficient, a case is opened and assigned to an investigator. The employer (the school or school district) and the educator are typically informed of the investigation. The investigator conducts an investigation which may include school visits; interviews with victim and witnesses (adults and minors); retrieving court documents; and reviewing personnel files, student folders and audit reviews. When an investigation is completed, the educator is provided the opportunity to review the findings and respond to the allegations. The results are reviewed by Department of Education attorneys and presented to the Commissioner of Education who determines if the educator’s conduct warrants disciplinary action against the educator’s certificate.
If it is determined an educator did something wrong, what kind of disciplinary actions can be taken against an educator’s certificate?
If the Commissioner of Education determines the educator's conduct warrants disciplinary action, the Education Practices Commission, a quasi-judicial body, determines what penalty to issue against an educator's certificate. Penalties that can be issued against an educator's certificate can range from a letter of reprimand, fines, probation, suspension or revocation.