It took a lot of work to earn your teaching certificate. You had to make it through four years of undergraduate education. You had to spend time practicing teaching and taking a battery of exams to prove you know what you're doing. Since then, you may have spent years building your reputation as an educator, fine-tuning your skills, and building your pedagogy. After all that, you don't want anything happening to that certificate.
Any time your teaching certificate is under threat, you must take it seriously. That means finding out all you can about the allegations against you. It means researching Maryland Board of Education procedures, particularly those related to investigations and hearings. You'll likely have to gather evidence and write documents. You may have to answer tough questions. You can get through this, but a certificate defense is never easy.
Here's the good news: you don't have to do all this work alone. Maryland state law gives you the right to legal representation any time you're forced to defend your professional license. That means the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can work with you to develop a strategy and build a defense. They can help you every step of the way, from responding to initial allegations to cross-examining witnesses at hearings.
The moment you discover someone has accused you of professional misconduct, you have to take action. You have to educate yourself, and you have to get help. To find out more, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.
Just What Can Put Your Teaching License at Risk?
Mounting a successful defense starts with understanding exactly what you've been accused of doing. In Maryland, there are a limited number of reasons the Board of Education can deny, suspend, or revoke a teaching certificate.
- Conviction for certain crimes, including all crimes of violence and crimes against children: Note that pleading “guilty” or “no contest” to a crime qualifies as “conviction.” In addition, the conviction can be for a state or federal crime committed in any US jurisdiction, not just Maryland.
- Submission of fraudulent credentials in applying for a teaching certificate: Misrepresentation of any kind is grounds for disciplinary action.
- Participation in any type of cheating scheme or failure to maintain test security
- Failure to pay child support
- Failure to report suspected child abuse
- Breach of contract: This doesn't just mean walking away from your job. It can include any refusal to perform specific duties enumerated in your contract.
In addition, censure in another state is grounds for disciplinary action in Maryland. You can also be sanctioned by the state if you are dismissed or voluntarily resign from your position as the result of a sexual misconduct allegation.
The state of Maryland and the Department of Education have a duty to protect the children under their care, and all of these rules and regulations work to fulfill that responsibility. No one would ever suggest that a person convicted of child abuse should be allowed to work as an educator in Maryland public schools.
That said, it is certainly possible to be accused of violating state policy through no fault of your own. Mistakes happen. Misunderstandings happen. Sometimes, emotions run high, and the individuals involved in a dispute make false allegations. You always deserve to defend yourself—to protect your reputation and your certification.
In fact, even if you know that you have violated state policy, you should never simply accept responsibility or a sanction the Board of Education might propose. State education departments are under enormous pressure to convince the public they are protecting the state's children. As a result, they can sometimes be overly zealous in prosecuting cases and overly harsh in assigning penalties. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm to ensure that you're treated fairly and that you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Teachers in Maryland
As the above list suggests, the Maryland Board of Education can't suspend or revoke your certification because a student doesn't like the grade they received on an assignment. In order to trigger an investigation, an accusation of wrongdoing must be both credible and actionable.
In fact, there is a clear set of procedures in Maryland for dealing with professional misconduct allegations, and the Board can't undertake any disciplinary measures without following those procedures. In addition, you have several important due process rights, such as the right to a presumption of “Not Responsible” (innocence), the right to review all evidence in the case, and the right to hire legal representation.
Here's an overview of what the process in Maryland looks like, followed by a close examination of each part.
- Cases typically begin with an accusation.
- Accusations are subject to investigation by your local school district.
- If it verifies you have violated state policy, your school district makes a sanction recommendation to the State Superintendent of Schools.
- You then have the right to request a hearing on the matter.
Many Maryland state policy violations are a matter of fact. If you've been convicted of a crime, that information is reported to your school district by county clerks in the state. Likewise, the state reports teachers who fail to pay child support.
Issues such as breach of contract, however, can be more subjective. In these cases, complaints can originate from virtually anyone.
- School administrators
- Support staff
- District administrators
- Community members
Wherever a complaint against you originates, you must take it seriously.
In Maryland, the responsibility for investigating a complaint initially rests with the teacher's home district, and specifically with your local superintendent of schools.
Investigative procedures vary from district to district. Again, many state violations are matters of fact that aren't open to debate. In such situations, an “investigation” may involve little more than an attempt to verify the validity of a county clerk's report. In all cases, though, you should expect your superintendent to notify you of the allegation and to give you an opportunity to respond.
Even in such procedural cases, you always want an attorney from the Lento Law Firm beside you when you respond to charges. Anything you say can be used to elevate sanctions. You want to avoid making any missteps in the process and leave open the option to negotiate a lower sanction.
Of course, if the district is working to prove you've breached your contract or that you've violated testing procedures, you absolutely want an attorney from the Lento Law Firm to answer questions on your behalf, monitor the investigation, and generally ensure your rights are protected.
Ultimately, your school district is entitled to make a summary judgment in the case. If it believes you are responsible for violating state policy, your local superintendent submits a written report to the State Superintendent of Schools. As part of that report, your superintendent must explain the basis of the complaint against you. In addition, the complaint includes a recommendation as to the appropriate sanction—typically either certification suspension or revocation.
Only the State Superintendent has the authority to enact this recommendation, though.
Before the superintendent issues a disciplinary sanction, they must notify you of the sanction and give you fifteen days in which to request a formal hearing into the matter.
A certification hearing works in many ways, like a criminal court case. The case is “heard” by an administrative judge. A representative from your local district serves as prosecutor, outlining the evidence against you. You have the chance to present evidence, to call witnesses to testify on your behalf, and to cross-examine any witnesses against you. Crucially, an attorney from the Lento Law Firm can conduct your entire defense for you.
Keep in mind, though, that a certification hearing isn't actually a criminal court proceeding. Rules of evidence may be far less restrictive, for example. In addition, the administrative judge doesn't have to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, they use a much less strict legal standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.” Basically, they must find you Responsible (guilty) if they are more than fifty percent convinced of your guilt.
Why You Need a Professional License Defense Team
By this point, you probably have a clear sense of why it is so important you have someone from the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team on your side when you go into a certification defense. For the sake of review, though,
- A certification case can be tremendously complex. Demonstrating your innocence may involve putting forward extremely subtle arguments, sometimes about the nature of the law itself. Procedural rules can be difficult to follow. And, while you have some important rights throughout the process, you can't use those rights effectively unless you understand them completely.
- Everything is on the line. If the Maryland Board of Education decides to revoke your license, it means the end of your career as an educator. In fact, even a suspension may make you essentially un-hireable. When the stakes are this high, you can't afford to handle the case yourself. You need the very best professional help you can find. You need someone from the Lento Law Firm.
Teachers are sometimes tempted to hire a local or family attorney to handle matters of certification. A local attorney is...well...local. They're easy to find. You may be able to walk right into their office on Main Street and talk your case over. You may also believe that because your local school district is the one investigating you, you're better off using someone who understands local politics.
Here's the problem with that thinking: teacher certification is a very particular aspect of the law, and not everyone is experienced enough to handle cases. While a complaint against you may have originated with your local school board, the bulk of your defense—any hearings into the matter, for instance, as well as decisions about specific sanctions—happens at the state level. You need someone who is familiar with how the state of Maryland handles issues of certification, someone who knows the Department of Education's processes and procedures.
Likewise, you need someone who isn't just comfortable as a courtroom litigator but who understands the nuances involved in professional misconduct investigations and hearings.
The Lento Law Firm was specifically founded to help professionals, including teachers, protect themselves. The firm's attorneys are licensed themselves, and they know how important your certification is to you and just what you're up against. More importantly, though, they've studied state and federal law, especially as it applies to education. They know the issues that are typically at stake, and they know the Maryland Department of Education. No one is better prepared to take on your defense in a certification case than the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm.
Other Licensure Concerns
Finally, it's worth noting that the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can do more than represent you when your teaching certificate is on the line. Because they spend so much time dealing with certification defenses, they have an intimate knowledge of how the Maryland Department of Education and Board of Education operate. This makes them an excellent resource for a wide variety of legal issues related to education, including
- Initial license applications
- License renewals
- Obtaining a license when moving from one state to another
- Accumulating professional development hours
- Adding additional endorsements to your license
What Can The Lento Law Firm Do For You?
A license defense can be a scary proposition. You may have to undergo an investigation; your life may be turned upside down; say the wrong thing, and it can be used against you. Plus, you're not simply facing a set of school board policies—Department of Education policy is written into Maryland state law. You're a teacher, a really good one, but you're not an attorney.
The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm understand your situation. They've helped hundreds of professionals deal with similar cases. They know the law, and they know the Maryland state certification system. You can count on them to make the entire process as straightforward as possible and to ensure you get the justice you deserve.