Sentencing guideline offered for teacher misconduct

Sentencing guideline offered for teacher misconduct

(Calif.) New penalty instructions for educator misconduct will be considered this week by the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The guidelines are intended to help standardize outcomes in malpractice cases generated by complaints that teachers or other certified personnel have violated conduct norms spelled out in the state education code.

The list of recommendations come at the request of the Attorney General’s office, which represents the commission on offenses that routinely include refusals to obey laws regulating certificated duties, lack of performance as required by employment contract, or addiction to alcohol or drugs.

“The guidelines contain a range of adverse actions that may be imposed for specific types of conduct in violation of agency disciplinary laws, factors in aggravation and mitigation, and suggested language for standard and optional terms and conditions of probation,” CTC staff said in a memo to the board. “Guidelines are not binding. The facts of each case are unique and mitigating or aggravating circumstances in a particular case may necessitate deviation from the guidelines. Minimum and maximum adverse actions are meant to provide assistance in determining the appropriate outcome.”

The CTC has two major responsibilities: To ensure public school educators are properly trained and credentialed; and to investigate misconduct and impose discipline when wrongdoing is identified.

Last year, the CTC’s Division of Professional Practices opened close to 5,900 new cases—more than half of which related to alcohol infractions. Charges of serious crimes and felonies accounted for 942 open cases in 2017-18, while there were 441 allegations sexual crimes against both children and adults.

CTC staff initially investigates complaints and, if charges are sustained, the case is brought to the commission’s Committee of Credentials. The committee is a seven-member panel charged with ruling on the complaints. All disciplinary actions taken by the committee are subject to appeal and final action by the commission itself.

Appeals are heard by an administrative judge.

Considering the many players in the misconduct process, standardizing potential sanctions for specific violations is clearly important. The new disciplinary guide is directed at educators and their counsels, as well as CTC staff, commission and committee members and, indeed, administrative judges as well.

Dealing with misconduct has at times pressed the CTC. The agency drew fire after auditors found more than 12,000 complaints unprocessed during the summer of 2009.

Just three years later, L.A. Unified undertook a massive review of misconduct reports within their district going back years after disclosure that a substitute teacher, who had resigned from the district following a sexual-abuse charge, was later hired at a nearby district and the prior charge was never reported to the state.

That review, as well as those conducted in other districts, generated about a 25 percent increase in workload for the CTC and later for the Attorney General’s office, as some of those cases went on appeal and into the administrative hearing process.

Although that backlog has long been cleared away, the commission continues to monitor disciplinary workload carefully. According to a report out this month, there were a total of 2,825 open cases pending before the CTC at the end of December, 2018. That’s a bit higher than the normal range of between 2,600 and 2,800.

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