There are nearly 60,000 public school teachers in Indiana to serve the state's nearly 300 school districts. The state has no shortage of educators, as the instructor-to-pupil ratio is about the same as the national average. However, qualified and compassionate teachers in Indiana face sanctions that threaten their livelihoods as educators and prevent them from teaching and helping students every day.
Being a teacher can be challenging, the work is tiring and the profession is generally underappreciated. Teachers are vital, however. They educate our children and teach them how to be productive members of society. When a hardworking teacher loses their chance to help students because of a licensure disciplinary matter, we at the Lento Law Firm think action needs to be taken.
Whether through misunderstandings, miscommunications, or unprofessionalism, teachers often find themselves facing criticism or even formal complaints. If you're accused of misconduct that puts your teacher's license in jeopardy, you must fight the allegations with every resource you have. If you don't, you could have your license suspended or revoked.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help you fight the accusations and protect your teaching license. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form and we'll get back to you.
Disciplinary Actions the Board Can Take
Anyone can file a complaint against a teacher in Indiana via the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. The Indiana Attorney General reviews the complaint and sends it to the state Department of Education (DOE) for disciplinary action.
If the Indiana DOE finds the complaint against you has merit, and you are indeed responsible for a violation, the sanctions you could face include:
- License suspension
- License revocation
- Downgrade to probationary status
- Suspension without pay
If your license is about to be suspended or revoked, or you are about to be suspended without pay from your teaching contract, you have a right to notice and due process beforehand.
The Truth Won't Always Protect You
Our experience defending teachers and other licensed professionals has shown us that, often, the truth isn't enough. Teachers may still lose their licenses or have them suspended when they've done nothing wrong. Many teachers felt that if they simply told the truth—that they didn't do anything to warrant discipline—they could clear their names. Unfortunately, many teacher license suspensions or revocations arise from misunderstandings or miscommunications.
The Indiana DOE can still end up sanctioning you even if you haven't done something wrong because:
- The DOE didn't do due diligence to uncover all the necessary facts, testimony, and evidence in the case.
- The DOE is biased in favor of the person who filed the complaint and takes harsher action than necessary to demonstrate that they take complaints seriously.
- The DOE refuses to consider certain evidence or testimony.
- The DOE doesn't reach an appropriate conclusion based on the information available.
In other words, the Indiana DOE can make mistakes when prosecuting your disciplinary matter. Simply going to the hearing and telling your side of the story won't prevent them from making these errors—errors that could cost you your license. Having a Professional License Defense attorney like the team at the Lento Law Firm helps you hold the DOE to account. We can ensure they follow their own processes and address any inconsistencies so that you have a fair investigation and hearing.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Indiana Teachers
Indiana law states that the Indiana DOE can suspend or revoke a license for:
- Misconduct in office
- Willful neglect of duty
A teacher can also lose their license if they are convicted of certain criminal offenses, including:
- Sex crime
- Criminal confinement
- Dealing in or manufacturing controlled substances or illegal drugs
- Homicide or reckless homicide
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Battery or aggravated battery
- Human trafficking
- The attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above crimes
- Public indecency
Although the law is clear on which crimes can lead to revocation of a teacher's license, it doesn't explain what “immorality,” “misconduct in office,” “incompetency,” or “willful neglect of duty” include. An action that a bystander or parent might consider “immoral” could get you reported to the Indiana Attorney General, put you under investigation, and eventually lead to the suspension or loss of your license.
Due to the vagueness of the law, it's crucial to have an attorney's assistance when you're dealing with a teaching license issue in Indiana. At the Lento Law Firm, we can help you build a convincing case; we know how to deal with accusations stemming from vague statutes like this one.
The Adjudication Process for Teacher License Issues in Indiana
When your teaching license comes under investigation in Indiana, the state DOE must follow Indiana law concerning adjudicative proceedings for licenses issued in Indiana.
The process has four major parts:
Once the Indiana DOE receives a complaint, it must send you an official notice, either by email or regular mail. The notice must include a brief description of the complaint and the procedures available to deal with the complaint.
Petition and Preliminary Hearing
After receiving the notice, you can petition for a review of the matter. In your petition, you must include:
- The findings or actions you are asking to have reviewed
- The reason you believe the findings or actions are in error
- The statutes or rules that support your argument
Once you file the petition, an administrative law judge will set a date for a preliminary hearing. The judge will determine if the order should take effect or be put on hold. At this hearing, you'll be responsible for providing proof that the order should be stayed (put on hold).
One thing to keep in mind is that someone from the DOE can act as the administrative law judge on your case. The Indiana DOE can also hire an attorney to act as the administrative law judge on your case. By doing so, the DOE can potentially create bias in the case by having a handpicked administrative law judge review your matter.
Hearing and Final Orders
After your petition is reviewed and granted, there's a formal hearing. At this proceeding, the Indiana DOE has the burden of persuasion, not you. Still, you must provide evidence and testimony in your favor during the hearing. You can have an attorney present with you at the hearing as well. You'll have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses that the other party calls and respond to their arguments. Also, the DOE must pay to have the hearing recorded.
If the administrative law judge is from the Indiana DOE, their decision at the end of the hearing represents a final order. If they are not from the DOE, then the decision can still be reviewed.
To request a review of the administrative law judge's decision, you can appeal to the Indiana DOE. The agency will either affirm, modify, or dissolve the decision. They can also remand the matter to another administrative law judge for further proceedings. Keep in mind that this appeal process is only possible if the judge from your hearing was not a representative from the Indiana DOE. If they were from the DOE, then you don't have the opportunity to appeal the final decision.
The adjudication process for a teaching license matter in Indiana is complex. If you don't have legal experience, you may find it extremely difficult to navigate the proceedings. At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team can help. We've helped teachers throughout Indiana and across the country with their license issues—we're familiar with Indiana law about licensing and can advise you on the best steps to take based on your situation.
Should You Hire an Attorney to Defend Your Teacher's License?
While you may not have to go to a court of law concerning your teaching license, the consequences of losing it are still immense. Your profession is at stake and an attorney who has experience defending professional licenses can be extremely beneficial to you.
You might want an attorney for the following reasons:
- The Department of Education has many resources. You are an individual educator, and the Indiana DOE is a state organization with lawyers and experts who deal with teacher licensing matters all the time. They're already ahead of you—but you can level the playing field by hiring the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense attorneys.
- You don't have experience defending your teaching license. Most educators haven't had to attend proceedings or go through adjudication to defend their licenses before. If you've never done it, you won't know what to expect or what the best course of action is. Our attorneys will know and can advise you at each step of the process.
While the licensing issue is ongoing, you still have to contend with daily life. We can deal with your licensure matter while you worry about your biggest priority: educating your students.
What Our Firm Will Do for You
When you choose to work with the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team, we'll provide the following services:
- Identify the ideal outcome for your case: We'll assess your situation and let you know what we think the best outcome for you would be based on the circumstances and severity of the charge against you.
- Seek out relevant evidence and testimony: Our team will conduct a thorough investigation of your case and gather evidence to support you. We'll also identify and reach out to potential witnesses who can testify on your behalf. With the right evidence and witness testimony, the outcome of your case could be significantly impacted.
- Explore options outside of the adjudication process: We can negotiate with DOE attorneys to work toward informal solutions or settlements without having to go through the entire adjudication process. Sometimes we can reach a favorable solution just with these negotiations.
- Accompany you to adjudication proceedings: We'll be by your side at every meeting, hearing, appeal hearing, or any other proceeding during your teaching license adjudication process. We'll make sure you're always prepared for these meetings and help you file the proper paperwork by the deadlines.
- Take further legal action: It might be necessary to take legal action beyond appeals. If a lawsuit is the right option for you, our team will pursue it for you. We'll advise you on whether you should take further legal action or not.
Our nationwide legal team is experienced with professional licensing board and their attorneys. We always consider each client's unique circumstances and work for the best possible outcome.
We Serve Teachers Employed in School Districts Throughout Indiana
No matter which district you work for or what kind of educator you are, sanctions on your teaching license can have a devastating effect on your personal and professional life. We serve teachers throughout the state of Indiana, including in:
- Fort Wayne
- Gary and Chicagoland
- Michigan City
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
Even if you work as a teacher in an Indiana city not listed above, the Lento Law Firm can help you defend your teaching license.
Call the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Today
When you get accused of misconduct or unprofessionalism and your teaching license is at stake, you should do everything you can to defend yourself. Our team is ready to start working on your case and help you hold on to the profession and reputation you worked so hard to build.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for a consultation to discuss strategies for protecting your Indiana teaching license. You can also fill out our form with your case details and a member of our team will reach out to you.