If you are a licensed teacher or other education professional in Delaware, your career depends on your license and credentials. Because of the high level of public trust placed on teachers, any type of complaint or allegation of wrongdoing can jeopardize your teaching license and upend your career. State teaching licensing boards, such as the Delaware Department of Education, take allegations of teacher misconduct seriously, and you should know where to turn for help if you face any sort of disciplinary action from the Delaware Department of Education or from your school.
The moment you learn of a complaint against you, contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team for a complete review and analysis of your case and advice regarding your rights and options to defend yourself and your teaching license. You can reach the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 to request a confidential consultation.
The Delaware Department of Education's Rules for Educator Certification
The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) requires all teachers in the state to be licensed and certified—or at least hold a permit to teach. The DDOE's License & Certification office is responsible for making sure prospective educators have the proper credentials for teaching in their respective subject fields. The DDOE issues and renews three types of teaching licenses:
- An initial license to new teachers who have less than four years of experience
- A continuing license to educators who have more than four years of experience
- An advanced license for teachers who have received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
The DDOE also issues certificates to people who want to teach in a certain area or have a particular area of expertise. They include:
- Standard Certificate -- certifies that an educator has the necessary credentials to teach within their subject area.
- Emergency Certificate -- a temporary credential issued to teachers who have obtained employment as an educator and hold one of the licenses listed above, but they may not meet the certification requirements for a particular area.
- Certificate of Eligibility (COE) – A COE is a credential the state can issue to educators who are participating in a state-approved alternative route to licensure and certification. A COE is valid for one year and may be renewed up to two times. Educators may obtain a COE as they continue to obtain the necessary certification requirements, but they have only three years to complete all COE requirements for certification.
Delaware's DOE may also issue permits to individuals to verify their qualifications and training to be able to teach in a specialized area.
What Kinds of Allegations Could Cause Me to Lose My Delaware Teaching License or Credentials?
Teachers in Delaware can face harsh consequences if found to be in violation of the DDOE's rules of conduct concerning educators. Some common allegations that can put your license or credentials at risk include (but are not limited to):
- Sexual misconduct with students.Having inappropriate sexual or romantic relationships with your students can have serious repercussions for your licensure and teaching career. The conduct does not have to be physical and can include sending sexually charged texts, making sexually suggestive comments, sexually harassing a student, and other forms of misconduct.
- Physically and/or verbally abusing students. You could face serious administrative disciplinary action if a student accused you of hitting, kicking, or otherwise physically harming them. This includes threatening to harm them or causing them to suffer psychological trauma due to a threat.
- Drug and alcohol abuse. If you come to school and teach while drunk or high, you could face harsh consequences if a student reports you. The same holds true for possessing, selling, or distributing drugs or alcohol while at school or giving such substances to minors.
- Academic-related misconduct. It's against DDOE regulations to falsify student records or inappropriately increase or decrease a student's grade.
- Criminal convictions. If you're convicted of a crime, you could lose your license and even be barred from teaching altogether, depending on the nature of your conviction. If convicted of a felony, you may not be able to ever teach in any institution that receives federal funding.
The DDOE also considers trying to obtain a certificate or license by misrepresenting facts or other fraudulent means as a serious violation that could cost you your teaching license. Additionally, the agency may revoke your Delaware teaching license if it finds you have your teaching license suspended or revoked in another jurisdiction.
According to Title 14, Chapter 12 of the Delaware Code regarding educator licensure and certification, the DDOE may limit, suspend, or revoke your license for any of the offenses listed above.
What Happens If Someone Files a Complaint Against Me?
Virtually anyone can lodge a formal complaint against you as a teacher through the DDOE's online complaint form or by contacting the appropriate investigator either through email or by phone. Complaints may also be made through mail or fax by downloading the complaint form from the DDOE. The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) only investigates allegations of regulations violations, not matters such as contract issues or childcare fees.
Those who have complaints involving sexual discrimination complaints and other similar matters may also work with the Title IX Coordinator for their school or school district.
When the OCCL receives a complaint, they typically forward the matter to the school where the teacher is employed for a response.
When the school receives the complaint, it will review it to ensure it falls under its jurisdiction. The school district, like Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington or Christina School District in Newark, will then investigate the matter to determine its validity. This can include reviewing documents, collecting evidence, and speaking with eyewitnesses.
What Are Possible Penalties I Can Receive?
The DDOE may take any number of sanctions against an educator found guilty of violating any rules of conduct or professionalism. In most cases, but not all, the penalty you receive will depend on the nature and severity of the offense.
The Secretary of the DDOE may suspend, revoke, or limit a license considering the circumstances. If a teacher pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony crime or sexually abuses a child, they may have their license revoked immediately. The Secretary may also automatically suspend a teaching license if a teacher is indicted by a grand jury for a violent felony or a crime against a child that constitutes a felony.
It's important to note that the Secretary will not investigate anonymous complaints, and they must provide notice to the teacher that they're being investigated within a “reasonable period of time.”
Along with suspending or revoking a license, the Secretary may also enter into a consent agreement with the teacher in question. A consent agreement is a negotiated agreement between the teacher and the DDOE where the teacher essentially admits to the offense and agrees to abide by whatever terms or sanctions the DDOE mandates.
In some cases, negotiating a consent order can help you keep your license and continue teaching—albeit with restrictions. Some restrictions include:
- Limiting the age of students you can teach or work around
- Requiring supervision of you while at work
- Requiring you attend counseling, psychiatric examinations, educational training, and other similar requirements
License suspensions may not last more than five years. However, if your license is revoked, you won't be able to petition for reinstatement for at least five years.
Nondisciplinary Letter of Concern
If the Secretary's investigation finds you violated any regulations included in Delaware's state code but has not taken action against you, they may determine that your practice may be improved if you are simply made aware of the concern and have a chance to redeem yourself. If so, the Secretary may issue a confidential letter that outlines the concern regarding your act or omission. If you receive three or more Letters of Concern, the Secretary may impose any of the abovementioned penalties regarding your license.
Regardless of whether you face (or have received) a suspension, revocation, or consent agreement, you need to have experienced legal counsel by your side to guide you in answering the accusations and asserting your rights to help you achieve the most favorable outcome possible.
Contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm for help.
What Can I Do If I Receive Complaints Against Me?
The law states that the DDOE or your school cannot take action against you without first notifying you of the charge and providing a “full and fair hearing before the Standards Board.” You have 30 days from the date the notice was mailed to you to request a hearing in writing.
The board or agency taking action against you must establish your guilt by a preponderance of evidence at a formal hearing. You also have the opportunity to present exonerating evidence to clear your name. The Secretary may consider any of the following when determining whether to reinstate your license or credentials:
- The nature and circumstances of your conduct
- Any subsequent infractions or rehabilitation
- Your present character
- Your current qualifications and competence to engage in pedagogy
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Secretary will determine what sanctions to impose, if any, which can include license suspension, revocation, or restrictions. The Secretary may also overturn the original ruling and reinstate your license.
Note: The Secretary may temporarily suspend your license if the offense creates an immediate danger to the safety and welfare of students before administering a formal hearing. The Secretary must provide written notification to you of the temporary suspension immediately.
Why You Need a Good License Defense Attorney
Unlike court hearings, you are not presumed innocent in formal hearings before the board, and they may take action against you through a preponderance of evidence without proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means you could be entering the proceedings with a considerable disadvantage.
Having an experienced Delaware license defense attorney on your side can help level the playing field and provide you with an opportunity to protect your license. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can significantly improve your chances of resolving the matter and getting the most favorable outcome possible.
Some of the things our team can do for you include:
- Evaluating the complaint and compiling evidence to exonerate you
- Helping you draft a compelling and persuasive written response that could help lead to a dismissal of your case
- Representing you in all interactions with the DDOE and the Standards Board
- Negotiating with the licensing board to have the charges dismissed or mitigate the potential consequences you could receive
- Defending you at the formal hearing, if necessary
The Lento Law Firm's Professional Defense Team is here to help you protect your license and preserve your ability to teach and follow your passion. We are committed to assisting you in any way we can throughout the process so that you can continue doing what you love.
Areas We Serve in Delaware
The Professional Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm serves teachers and licensed educators throughout Delaware, including the following school districts and metropolitan areas:
Wilmington and New Castle County – Brandywine School District, East Side Charter School, Edison (Thomas A.) Charter School, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School, Gateway Lab School, Great Oaks Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, and Red Clay Consolidated School District
Dover and Kent County - Academy of Dover Charter School, Campus Community Charter School, Capital School District, and Early College High School at Delaware State University
Sussex County - Cape Henlopen School District in Lewes, Delmar School District, Indian River School District in Selbyville, Milford School District, Seaford School District, Woodbridge School District in Bridgeville, and Sussex Academy and the Sussex Technical School District in Georgetown
Contact The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Today
You worked hard to get your teaching degree and credentials, as well as your teaching license. You have also chosen a noble profession in helping children reach their full potential. Do not let accusations of wrongdoing threaten your career and livelihood.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has successfully represented many licensed teachers in Delaware and across the country with their serious licensing issues.