Discipline Against Teachers in Tennessee
The State has broad authority to regulate teachers and the teaching profession. In order to teach, a teacher must obtain a license from the State Board of Education in Tennessee or a similar agency in other states where the teacher holds a license or is teaching. The State Board of Education may suspend, revoke, or otherwise sanction a teacher for a violation of State law or regulations – even after the school district has already punished the teacher. Many teachers are unaware of this reality.
To explain, when a teacher is disciplined by a school or school district for a supposed or real incident or infraction, teachers may labor under the impression that the matter is closed and concluded, and that nothing more will happen. Though the school district’s action against a teacher may have concluded, the school district will or may report the incident or infraction to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education often does not act quickly, and months may pass until it does. After several months, what generally follows is that a teacher receives a letter from an attorney at the State Board of Education with an enclosed proposed “Consent Decree,” which is an administrative order that sanctions the teacher’s license. The Consent Decree will require the teacher’s license to be suspended or revoked or set forth another sanction. If you agree and accept the penalty, the penalty and the action leading to the actions are public records. So, the world will have access to the proceeding.
What happens if a teacher is disciplined by the Board of Education?
Here are the likely consequences if the State Board of Education affects your license. When a teacher applies for a teaching job or applies for renewing his or her job, the school district usually checks to determine if the teacher has a valid license and if the teacher has ever been sanctioned or penalized by the Board of Education. If a teacher’s license has been negatively affected or has a negative mark on it, the teacher often will have difficulty landing another teaching position or perhaps holding her or his current position. Moreover, the negative mark on the license will show up on background checks.
What legal rights do Tennessee teachers have if they received a Consent Decree?
Know this: You do NOT have to agree to accept the State Board of Education’s proposed Consent Decree and its terms. You can demand a hearing and contest and challenge the Board’s proposed action against you and your license. Due to the passage of time, at your hearing, memories fade; the school district or its employees may not prioritize assisting the Board’s attorney is pursuing charges against you. When this occurs, the teacher may benefit.
In any event, don’t just accept the Board’s proposed Consent Decree and its suggested punishment or sanction. Learn and explore your options. Talk to an experienced lawyer.
Perry A. Craft has represented numerous teachers over the years. He can answer your questions and advise you. Call the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC or complete our contact form to speak with an experienced education law attorney.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Attorney Craft.