Protecting Your Teaching Certification
As a teacher, you know all the rewards that come from working in the classroom. You can help students learn, grow, and reach their full potential. You also know that teaching has many challenges. The educational landscape has changed over the past few years – and the demands on teachers are many. So many are dealing with long hours, overcrowded classrooms, a lack of funding, ever-increasing regulations, and less-than-optimal administrative support. It's a hard job – but anyone who has spent time in the classroom and made a difference in a student's life knows it's absolutely worthwhile. However, those burdens can lead to misunderstandings or other situations that can threaten teachers' certifications.
To be a teacher in the state of South Dakota, you worked hard to get the right degree – and to achieve educator certification from the South Dakota Department of Education. If you have been notified of an allegation of professional or other misconduct, your certification and ability to work in the classroom may be on the line. It is imperative that you act so that you can protect your career – and your ability to continue supporting your students and your family.
If you have been notified that you are being investigated by the South Dakota Department of Education, there is no time to lose. While you may be anxious or scared about a potential investigation – or even quite angry – you cannot risk putting your head in the sand. You shouldn't try to handle the investigation yourself, either. Despite the fact that an allegation may just be the product of a misunderstanding or other issue beyond your control, the onus is on you to proceed with care. Given that you've given blood, sweat, and tears to bring your best to the classroom, you should not face this challenge alone. If you are facing an Educator Disciplinary Action in the state of South Dakota, you need the right advice and support to manage the investigation process and any resulting actions with your best foot forward.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can provide experienced advice and support to help you come through the Department of Education investigation and disciplinary processes with the best possible outcome. The Lento Law firm has experience representing teachers in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Pierre, and Sturgis. They have also represented teachers in rural school districts like Parkston, Faulkton Area Schools, and Willow Lake.
If you have received notice that your certification is under threat, you should be concerned. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or go online to discuss your case – and retain the experienced legal counsel you need to guide you through the investigation.
South Dakota Department of Education Disciplinary Process
The South Dakota legislature has published a Code of Professional Conduct for the state's educators. It includes specific obligations related to students, the public, and the profession. The Department of Education has designated a Professional Teachers Practices and Standards Commission (PTPSC), made up of six teachers and one parent appointed by the governor.
If someone believes an educator has violated the Code of Professional Conduct, they can request to file a complaint with the Department of Education. Within 10 days after the PTPSC receives that complaint, they provide the complainant with a copy of the Code of Professional Code and a form to provide a formal written statement. They must outline the issues they see, identify which sections of the code have been violated, and show that these violations occurred in the last three years. The written complaint is then provided to the teacher for a response.
The PTPSC is responsible for reviewing all formal, written complaints. Upon receipt and the teacher's response, they may decide to dismiss the complaint altogether or start an investigation.
If the resulting investigation finds evidence to support the complaint, the Department of Education may decide to suspend or revoke certification. Any decisions will also be published on the Department of Education's website – where anyone can look up a teacher who has been disciplined by the department.
That's yet another reason why, if you are a certified educator in Brookings or Yankton – or anywhere else in the state – facing a complaint, the time to act is now. Engage the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team to help you craft an evidence-based, effective defense right from the start.
Conduct Allegations that May Lead to Complaints
It is important that all certified educators in the state of South Dakota are familiar with the Code of Professional Ethics – and their obligations to students, the public, and the profession.
You may face suspension or revocation of your educator certification if you are found guilty of:
- Violating state or federal laws
- Sexual harassment or abuse
- Criminal convictions
- Acts of cruelty, disparagement, or discrimination against students
- Inappropriate relationships with students
- Restraining students from their pursuit of learning
- Failing to maintain discipline and order in the classroom
- Keep student and family information in confidence
- Distorting or misrepresenting facts concerning educational matters
- Exploiting the school district for personal gain
- Being a party to fraud, embezzlement, theft, deceit, or moral turpitude
- Misusing or abusing school property
- Unprofessional conduct with colleagues
- Misrepresenting professional qualifications
- Gross negligence or incompetence that puts students at risk
Many of the items outlined in the Code of Professional Ethics are somewhat vague – there is plenty of room for misinterpretation. As any experienced teacher knows, misunderstandings can often arise both in the classroom and the conference room. It's yet another reason why it's so important that you respond appropriately to any complaint. You might feel like you can manage the matter by talking to the complainant directly – or trying to get your school or district involved in the matter. This can often backfire. You want to gather and present the appropriate evidence to show your side of the story and explain any mitigating circumstances. In doing so, you have a better chance of protecting your educator certification.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help you do just this. They will help you understand the ins and outs of the investigatory and disciplinary process with the state. They will help you craft the right written responses with the right evidence to help ensure you come out of the complaint process with your license and reputation intact. You benefit when you have an experienced team to answer your questions, explain your rights, talk you through the process, and advise you on your options. The Lento Law Firm stands for the right to fight in your defense – and help you get to the best outcome in the face of any disciplinary actions.
The Right Support During the Investigation and Disciplinary Process
As noted earlier, the PTPSC has jurisdiction to review and investigate any and all allegations of misconduct. Any individual – student, parent, colleague, administrator, or regular guy off the street – can request to make a complaint. While the onus is on them to contact the PTPSC and provide a detailed written statement, literally anyone can submit a complaint. While teachers are offered the opportunity to provide a written response to a complaint before an investigation begins, any complaints found credible may be subject to certification suspension or revocation.
The investigation will be conducted by experienced investigators. They will request documents, written statements, and other evidence. They may conduct interviews with the complainant, student, colleagues, and other relevant parties. Such thorough investigations take time – it may take months or even a year to complete. However, it is vital that any educator at the center of such an investigation be ready, willing, and able to respond in a thoughtful manner to any questioning.
It is also important to understand that the South Dakota Department of Education does offer teachers due process in the event of a complaint. Yet, these proceedings do not follow the same policies and procedures as a civil or criminal court of law. The PTPSC has its own way of doing things. It pays to have a team of trusted advisors who can support you through the process – and help you understand where, when, and how you can best help yourself during the proceedings. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will help you understand every step of the process, from the time you are notified of a complaint to helping you collect the right evidence to present at an administrative hearing.
If you receive notice of a complaint against you, the time to act is now. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or go online to discuss your case – and gather the necessary information to help the PTPSC understand the true nature of any complaint.
Your Best Offense is a Good Defense
Once a teacher is notified of a Code of Professional Ethics violation, it is human nature to feel a variety of emotions. If you have received notice of a complaint, you would not be alone in feeling scared, frustrated, or just darn mad. But don't let your emotions drive your response. Many complaints may be based on a simple misunderstanding. Others could be due to anger or malice. The PTPSC will review every complaint. They will make sure to give each one the attention it deserves. But they will also offer you an opportunity to respond. If you get the response right, the PTPSC may dismiss the complaint outright. This is a best-case scenario.
Teachers don't get into the classroom for money or accolades. Most teachers in the state of South Dakota are caring, dedicated professionals who give their all every day to help their students be the best they can be. The PTPSC knows that. But when you can provide the right evidence that gives proper context to an event, helps to clear up a misunderstanding, or mitigates allegations of misconduct due to extenuating circumstances, you make it easier to resolve the matter in the most favorable way possible. Even if a mistake was made, you may be able to clear the matter up without the suspension or loss of your teaching certification. The Lento Law Firm's experienced Professional License Defense Team can guide you as you seek to resolve any complaint with the Department of Education – helping you collect the appropriate evidence to help the PTPSC understand what really occurred. In doing so, you are in a much better position to protect your license and remain in the classroom with your reputation intact.
Areas We Serve in South Dakota
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has experience representing educator clients throughout the state of South Dakota, including:
- Sioux Falls
- Rapid City
- Belle Fourche
- North Sioux City
- Dell Rapids
- Box Elder
We also represent teachers who work in the more rural areas in the state, including school districts like:
- Stanley County
Protect Your Certification – and Your Livelihood
Attaining your certification as a professional educator in the state of South Dakota shows your students, colleagues, and community that you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to help students reach their full potential in the classroom. You've gotten your degree and gained the experience necessary to help your students learn the skills they need as they grow into adults. If your educator certification is under threat after a complaint suggesting you have violated the state's Code of Professional Ethics, you must stand strong – and respond to the matter in a serious manner. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is ready to fight for you. They understand the policies, procedures, and regulations that govern the Department of Education in South Dakota. They stand ready to help you get to the best possible outcome, regardless of the allegations made against you.
When you put your trust in the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team, you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to protect your teaching certification – and your future ability to teach in the classroom. Call 888-535-3686 or reach out to us online today to discuss your case – and figure out the next steps to resolve it.