You have worked hard to acquire your teaching credentials, and you've worked even harder to establish a good teaching record at the school where you teach. You're on track to achieve tenure—and then, the unthinkable happens. Someone files a complaint with the state licensing board, and your teaching license comes under scrutiny. The big question is--even if you're able to keep your license to teach, could this case hurt your quest to achieve tenure?
The short answer is, it might--, but there are quite a few variables to consider. Let's unpack this question a bit to see what we can learn.
Rules for Tenure
Every state Department of Education and every college board has its own policies for granting tenure to teachers and professors. In New Jersey, for example, K-12 public school teachers and principals achieve tenure after four years of employment at a "rather effective" or "highly effective" rating. For universities, tenure usually requires an even longer track record of quality and often a Ph.D. That being said, many school systems also have codes of conduct in place, and violating those rules can impact your rating as a teacher--possibly resulting in denial of tenure, and in some cases even having your tenure revoked.
Not surprisingly, the codes of conduct for teachers within schools and universities are quite similar to those issued by the state Board of Education that issued your teaching license. Thus, an allegation of wrongdoing against your license could also trigger internal disciplinary action within the school over the same alleged offense. Similarly, if the school is notified that your teaching license is under investigation by the licensing board, they may also opt to launch their own investigation into possible wrongdoing—especially if the issue involves a criminal conviction. If you're up for tenure, this could certainly play against you if you're found to be in the wrong--or if you currently have tenure, the worst-case scenario is that you could have your tenure revoked.
Will Disciplinary Action on My License Automatically Affect My Tenure?
Not necessarily--but it is a possibility. If your teaching license is revoked by the state, your question of tenure becomes moot; if you can't teach, you can't have tenure. However, if the board invokes some other type of disciplinary action against you (for example, fines, probation, or a reprimand), the school may take this penalty into account when making a decision about your tenure. If you already have tenure, however, it would probably take a very serious allegation of wrongdoing to prompt the school to consider revoking your tenure.
Avoiding Tenure Issues with Your License Defense Case
Allegations against your teaching license aren't guaranteed to negatively impact your quest for tenure, but the possibility exists nonetheless. The best way to avoid this outcome is by hiring a skilled professional license defense attorney to help you at the first sign of trouble. If you and your attorney can refute the complaint against your license or convince the board to drop the complaint, the chances of your tenure being affected go down considerably. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help teachers facing licensing issues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your options.