Nearly all educators in Massachusetts are required to have a license for employment. Teachers must keep up with continuing requirements like recertification and associated fees, but the most important part of maintaining an educator license is adhering to the state agency's licensing code of professional standards. Violations can quickly lead to the suspension of credentials or a complete revocation that could spell the end of your career.
Threats to a teacher's license can also come from a wide variety of complaints originating from any source. Regardless of the misconduct alleged, Massachusetts authorities will conduct an investigation, which commonly leads to a department-led hearing. And even if complaints are unsubstantiated, accusations can damage your professional reputation.
While teachers may regain their credentials after a period of time, it could be years before approval happens. Therefore, make the investment in a team of attorneys to help you defend yourself against the licensing board and continue with your career. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has a passion for defending teachers and educators against disciplinary boards and state licensing agencies. They understand the difficulties of administrative investigations and how sanctions can disrupt someone's career for years to come. For guidance, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today or go online immediately for help.
Massachusetts Educator License
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) handles all educator license applications and the review process, particularly the Office of Educator Licensure. State law grants the DESE Commissioner the authority to limit, suspend, or revoke an educator license for causes established by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
There are various types of educator licensures offered in Massachusetts, including the following:
- Military Spouse
While there are numerous endorsements for various grade levels, subjects, special education, career and technical, and others, all license holders are held to standards that require continuing education, seminars, exams, and other stipulations. But, one of the most important commitments is following DESE's code of professional standards.
Massachusetts Educator Licensee Professional Standards
Every state agency will have a general guideline for acceptable behavior. For teachers and educators, that not only includes conduct in the classroom and on school grounds but also some personal conduct. DESE has two separate codes governing professional standards for teachers and administrators.
Teachers are required to respect and promote the following principles:
- Curriculum, Planning, and Assessment: Promoting the learning and progression of all students through coherent, meaningful, and authentic instruction, including analyzing data points for improvements.
- Teaching All Students: Adhering to practices that put forth high expectations, create a safe learning environment, and demonstrate cultural competency and proficiency.
- Family and Community Engagement: Building effective partnerships with students, parents, guardians, community members, and cooperative organizations.
- Professional Culture: Fostering student growth through an ethical, collaborative practice.
DESE establishes performance metrics in the above categories to measure teacher effectiveness. These include the English language proficiency of students, diverse instructional planning, meetings with parents, and more. The guidelines of professionalism for administrators or those granted administrative leadership authority are different based on occupational responsibilities. Those for administrators include the following DESE professional standards:
- Instructional Leadership: Create a shared, school-wide vision that supports effective teaching and learning with student and staff success.
- Management and Operations: Use resources, including curriculum, staffing, and scheduling, to implement appropriate learning and behavioral techniques in the school environment.
- Family and Community Engagement: Advocate for student and staff growth through partnerships with families and key community stakeholders.
- Professional Culture: Fostering student and staff success by sustaining a school atmosphere of high expectations, thoughtful practice, and continuing education.
DESE is clear that any educator license may be suspended, revoked, or denied renewal if the license holder is not of "sound moral character. But complaints may allege misconduct of any nature, which will kick off the grievance process.
The Disciplinary Process for Massachusetts Teachers and Educators
While DESE and its Board maintain educator license standards, regulations, and its approval process, alleged misconduct is handled by the department's Office of Professional Practices and Investigations (OPPI) on behalf of the Board. The first step of the disciplinary process will begin when a complaint arises against a licensee or an applicant.
OPPI will open a case file and interview the licensee or applicant and any corroborating witnesses, including the accuser. Department investigators or counsel will also review relevant documents, including those from previous employment or licensure history. At any point during the investigation, license holders are permitted to retain counsel, as none will be provided.
If the investigation unearths probable cause to believe that sanctionable misconduct occurred, OPPI will seek the Commissioner's approval to move forward with formal charges. If the investigation determines that alternative action is sufficient—like additional training, enhanced classroom management, professionalism seminars, etc.—OPPI will recommend the lessened sanctions. Teachers and educators will receive a "notice of probable cause" that sanctions are forthcoming. The licensee may choose not to contest the decision or request an appeal conducted through an administrative adjudicatory hearing within 21 days. Applicants will not have a chance to appeal.
The Commissioner will appoint a hearing officer, likely a state administrative law judge (ALJ). Hearings before an ALJ will include both sides presenting arguments, supporting evidence, and witness testimony. The hearing officer will recommend a decision to the Commissioner regarding the evidence submitted but not whether to impose a license sanction. The Commissioner will then discern whether to adopt the ALJ's decision, impose a sanction, and, if so, what type
- Suspension: The temporary removal of a licensed teacher or educator from their responsibilities as an employee.
- Revocation: Loss of employment
Teachers and educators will have the opportunity to appeal the decision, but not through DESE, OPPI, or an ALJ. Licensees must then go through the state's court system.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help Protect Your Educator Licensure
Any complaint against you is a threat to your Massachusetts educator license. While OPPI maintains that unfounded allegations may not receive formal sanctions, investigations of complaints into a licensee may affect future career moves. Without an effective representation, teachers and educators enter a host of procedures that they may not be familiar with, causing great vulnerability to harsh sanctions. Therefore, teaming with a Lento Law Firm attorney who understands how licensing boards manage discipline is a valuable career investment.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team knows how ongoing investigations and looming sanctions can affect teachers and educators. You've spent years and tens of thousands of dollars to obtain your education and career credentials. So, let the Lento Law Firm provide the defense you need to maintain your professional license and continue teaching with a passion. The Lento Law Firm will not only make sure you are strongly represented to the licensing authorities, but they will also:
- Analyze the complaint, corroborating evidence, and other relevant information to create a defense strategy.
- Assist in drafting responses to the DESE, OPPI, or other authorities involved.
- Collect supporting evidence and seek vital witnesses' testimony on your behalf.
- Lead negotiations with the DESE or OPPI to mitigate sanctions.
- File appeals with the Massachusetts state court system if needed.
Moreover, it's essential to know that actions committed by a teacher or educator that have negative employment consequences don't necessarily warrant sanctions from licensing authorities. Ensure you have a right to a fair hearing, due process, and a strong defense by teaming with the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today.
Areas the Lento Law Firm Serves in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is home to a variety of schools and institutions throughout its four distinct regions. School climates reflect the populations they serve, which can be different between urban, suburban, and rural settings. Below is a general overview:
Western Massachusetts: Bordered on the west by Canada, Western Massachusetts is dominated by more rural areas with a mix of public, private, and alternative school options. Notably, the area is home to the long-lived Williams College.
Central Massachusetts: With more suburbs and large towns, Amherst anchors the area, where the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system is located. Also found in the central part of the state are Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Assumption University,
Northeast Massachusetts: Just north of the Boston metropolitan area, hundreds of teachers and staff are employed with Brandeis University. The region also includes a plethora of learning options for K-12 education.
Boston Metropolitan Area: As one of the oldest cities in America, Boston is the economic and education hub of Massachusetts. Not only does the metro area offer world-class elementary and secondary education, but it is also home to titans of higher education: Boston College, Wellesley College, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and many more.
No matter where you are in Massachusetts, you can access the help you require to retain your educator license. Even though you may have facts unique to your situation, the governing state agencies may not consider extenuating factors that may have led to conduct issues like the school system you work in or the influence of fellow colleagues or administrators.
Consequences of Losing an Educator Licensure
Losing an educator license is a significant event. Teachers and educators rely on their credentials to gain employment, including placement in the various compensation levels warranted by holding an educator license. Therefore, once a license is suspended or revoked, the following short-term consequences may affect you:
- Salary cut or employment terminated.
- End of employment benefits like health insurance, pension plans, etc.
- Unable to teach or hold a licensed education position in Massachusetts.
While the initial downfalls may be obvious, there are more that could affect you years down the road. For example, the revocation of an educator license will be reported to national databases accessible to the licensing authorities in other states. Because of that, suspension and revocation can cause the following:
- Forbidden from holding a license or teaching in other states.
- Forced to take non-licensed employment roles that may provide less pay and job security.
- Re-entry issues because of the stigma associated with disciplinary action.
With licensure revocation, there is commonly a waiting period before an individual can apply for a new teaching certificate, depending on the sanction handed down. Moreover, previous disciplinary action is often used as a reason to deny reapplication. With these considerable consequences, any teacher or educator should consult with the Lento Law Firm to understand their rights, obligations, and possible strategies for defense.
Professional License Defense for Massachusetts Teachers and Educators
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is dedicated to helping Massachusetts teachers and educators navigate complaints against them, as well as providing representation in DESE and OPPI procedures. After graduating with a degree, navigating the financial and administrative hurdles of acquiring a professional license, and maintaining state agency guidelines, you need a team that understands the core of educator license regulations to broker a resolution with officials.
Sometimes, local attorneys may attempt to convince license holders that they need someone with courtroom proficiency to successfully represent them to state licensing officials and protect their credentials. However, courtroom competency doesn't translate into a winning defense in administrative hearings. They work much differently, with different standards of evidentiary proof, due process, and the appeals mechanism. Additionally, local attorneys often use aggressive tactics as a first line of defense. If you're a licensed teacher or educator, you need beneficial, comprehensive assistance in retaining your authorization to teach in Massachusetts, not hostile legal tactics that don't serve your best interests.
Get the assistance you need to properly defend yourself and maintain your educator license. Contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team online or call today at 888-535-3686.