The Utah State of Board of Education (Board) seeks comments from the public about educator licensing, the disciplinary process for Utah educators, and specifically about presumptions that are used by the Board to determine punishments or penalties when there is educator misconduct.
Under Utah’s Constitution, “the general control and supervision of the public education system [is] vested in a State Board of Education.” Utah’s Legislature authorized the creation of the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC), a body of nine educators and two parent-representatives, “to assist and advise the board in matters relating to the professional practices of educators.” UPPAC’s duties include reviewing allegations of educator misconduct and making recommendations for appropriate discipline based on a set of professional standards developed by the Board and UPPAC. See Utah Administrative Code Rule 277-515.
Historically, educator disciplinary action has been based on a set of informal guidelines for determining sanctions for particular types of misconduct. The Attorney General’s Office, working in conjunction with UPPAC staff, put these guidelines into written formal presumptions. These Presumptions would provide a range of punishment for misconduct, accounting for mitigating and aggravating factors. See UPPAC Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances.
The Board has authority to take away an educator’s license or otherwise discipline an educator. However, to do so, it must satisfy “due process of law,” which includes notice, opportunity to be heard, and fairness of the possible sanctions. These Presumptions categorize misconduct and provide consistent discipline proportionate to the misconduct.
The disciplinary actions that the Board and UPPAC may impose for educator misconduct are:
- Revocation: educator license is permanently invalidated
- Suspension: educator license is invalidated for a minimum designated period (for example 3 years)
- Probation: an educator must satisfy certain conditions or risk invalidation of license
- Lesser penalties (reprimand, warning letters, and admonishment): written sanctions that do not impact educator license
Reinstatement of a suspended license is not automatic or guaranteed. UPPAC and the Board must both approve reinstatement following satisfaction of stated conditions and a hearing. Historically, 22% of suspended licenses have been reinstated by the Board. Revocation is permanent.
PUBLIC INPUT REQUESTED
Given the importance Utahns place on having ethical educators in Utah’s classrooms, the Board believes that these Presumptions should be made available for public evaluation and comment. The Board invites public comment on any aspect of these Presumptions, but has particular interest in the following:
- Are these Presumptions appropriate? Too lenient? Too severe?
- Should these Presumptions be general “guidance” or “rules,” which the Board must follow?
The State Board will accept public comments on these Presumptions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org through January 30, 2015. All comments received will become public information.
UPPAC PRESUMPTIONS BASED ON PAST UPPAC ACTIONS
UPPAC shall use the following presumptions in determining disciplinary actions (dismissals, disciplinary letters, probation) and in making disciplinary recommendations to the Board:
A. Minimal or lesser discipline (admonition, warning, reprimand with or without probation) is PRESUMED appropriate if an educator:
- Engages in miscellaneous minimal boundary violation(s) with student or minor whether physical, electronic or verbal;
- Engages in minor physical altercations with a student (e.g. taps a student with a yardstick, holds/restrains a student without good reason)
- Engages in unprofessional communications or conduct with students, co-workers, community members, or parents;
- Engages in inappropriate discussion(s) with students that violate state or federal law (once or twice may = letter; more often or more inappropriate may = greater discipline; parent and student response may affect discipline)
- Knowingly violates requirements or procedures regarding special education procedures (IEPs, evaluations, etc.);
- Knowingly violates standardized testing protocols;
- Is convicted of a single DUI, with or without court probation or conditions;
- Carelessly mismanages public funds or fails to accurately account for receipt and expenditure of public funds entrusted to the educator’s care;
- Fails to report to the appropriate LEA an arrest w/in short period of time;
- Engages in other minor violation of Utah Educator Standards (R277-515); or
- Has a single conviction for a misdemeanor offense not otherwise listed
B. Short term suspension/suspension for up to one year is PRESUMED appropriate if an educator:
- Has multiple incidents or a pattern (3 examples) of inappropriate conduct that warrant discipline short of a suspension;
- Demonstrates misconduct that warrants lesser discipline and there are aggravating factors which may include a heightened position of trust, young students, numerous warnings by employer or advisory licensing body, vulnerable students or other factors.
C. Suspension for 1 to 3 years is PRESUMED appropriate, if an educator:
- Repeatedly views sexually inappropriate materials on school property* or using school equipment (on school computer, using personal device on school property, using school device at home or elsewhere, viewing or possessing inappropriate magazines on school property, taking pictures on phone or w/camera on school property, etc.; discipline may vary based on time periods of access, previous warnings by employers, students involved or material accessible to students or not);
- Is convicted** of one or more (minor) violence or sexual offenses in the last 3 years;
- Engages in inappropriate non-physical interactions with student(s) that are sexual in nature (texting, email, conversation w/o physical relationship);
- Is convicted of using physical force or excessive discipline with a minor where the conviction is a class B misdemeanor or lower;
- Engages in repeated incidents of or a single egregious incident of excessive physical force or discipline to a child or student that is consistent with the circumstances of Utah Code §53A-11-802(2)(b) and does not result in criminal conviction;
- Threatens a student physically, verbally or electronically;
- Engages in a pattern of inappropriate fraternization with student(s);
- Engages in multiple incidents or a pattern of theft or misappropriation of public funds that do/does not result in criminal conviction;
- Attends school or school-related activities/events in an assigned supervisory capacity while possessing, using, or under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, as defined in Utah Code §58-37e-2;
- Is convicted of two or three drug or alcohol-related offenses in the three years previous to the most recent conviction;
- Is convicted of one or more 3rd degree felony(ies) not otherwise listed;
- Engages in a pattern of or a single egregious incident of harassing, bullying, or threatening a co-worker or community member;
- Knowingly and deliberately falsifies or misrepresents information on education-related documents.
D. Suspension for three years or more is PRESUMED appropriate if an educator:
- Engages in an inappropriate physical relationship that is sexual in nature with a student at the educator’s school, that does not violate Utah Code §53A-6-501:
- Is convicted of:
- child abuse where the conduct results in a conviction of a class A misdemeanor or higher;
- any felony involving minor(s), or any 1st or 2nd degree felony;
- an offense that results in the educator being placed on court supervision for three or more years;
- more than three drug or alcohol-related offenses in the 3 years previous to the most recent conviction (the time period runs from the date of the earliest offense to the date of the most recent conviction);
- intentional theft or misappropriation of public funds; or
- Intentionally provides alcohol or illegal drugs, as defined in Utah Code §58-37e-2, to a minor.
E. Revocation is PRESUMED appropriate if an educator:
- Engages in sexually explicit conduct consistent with Utah Code §53A-6-501;
- Is convicted of:
- viewing child pornography, on or off school property;
- sexual solicitation of a minor, as defined in Utah Code §76-10-1313;
- crime(s) against the person as found in Utah Code §76-5 that result(s) in jail time for 6 months or more; or
- Multiple times (3 or more), each involving a minor, for any combination of drug/alcohol, violence, or sexual offenses in the 3 years previous to the most recent conviction (the time period runs from the date of the earliest offense to the date of the most recent conviction).
*”school property” also means at a school sponsored or related activity where the educator is acting in a supervisory role.
**”convicted” also means“ entered into a plea in abeyance.”