It may not cost much to renew an educator licensure in Mississippi, but when credentials are threatened, individuals then begin to add up the years of schooling and thousands of dollars it costs to attend. Therefore, whenever the state's licensing agency seeks to enforce action through its grievance procedures, it's important to take the situation with the seriousness it deserves. Losing your licensure could spell the end of your career.
Authorities have the potential to revoke licensures for severe misconduct, but rule infractions are wide-ranging as governing bodies oversee professional and sometimes personal conduct. Complaints can come from any source, and Mississippi's licensing agency will investigate each situation, no matter how small. However, defending yourself in an administrative hearing is no easy task. There are often complex processes with legal complexities where mistakes can mean you lose your license.
Regaining your credentials could take years, so it's best that you get the help you need to keep your Mississippi educator licensure before the disciplinary process begins. 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.
Mississippi Educator Licensure
When individuals decide to pursue a career as a teacher or education professional in Mississippi, they will need to acquire an educator licensure. The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) validates credentials for teachers and educators. The Division of Educator Licensure is the sole program office within the MDE authorized for the implementation of the policies adopted by the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) relating to the licensing of teachers, instructional support personnel, and administrators.
There are various types of educator licensures offered in Mississippi, including those for traditional education routes, alternative settings, career and technical, and subject-based credentials. Teachers and educators must usually participate in ongoing professional development to maintain or renew their licenses. Requirements for renewal may include a specific number of professional development hours or additional coursework. But, one of the most important commitments to maintain certification is adherence to the state's code of ethics.
Mississippi Educator Licensee Code of Ethics
Every state agency will have a code of ethics for licensure holders, and it's no different with teachers. The MDE asserts that all educators must assume various obligations that promote professional conduct and protect the health, safety, and general welfare of students and colleagues. Unethical conduct is considered "any conduct that impairs the license holder's ability to function in his/her employment position or a pattern of behavior that is detrimental to the health, safety, welfare, discipline, or morals of students and colleagues."
Some common forms of unethical conduct may include the following:
- Misuse or mismanagement of tests or testing materials.
- Inappropriate language or communication used at school or during school-sponsored events.
- Failure to appropriately supervise or reasonably discipline students.
- Harassing students or colleagues or maintaining inappropriate relationships.
- Falsifying or misrepresenting records, reasons for absences, qualifications, etc.
- Using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco on school grounds or at school-sponsored events.
- Violating terms of an employment contract.
The MDE is clear that any educator licensure may be suspended or revoked for engaging in unethical conduct. But complaints may allege misconduct of any nature, which will kick off the grievance process.
The Disciplinary Process for Mississippi Teachers and Educators
While the first step of the disciplinary process will begin when the MDE receives a complaint or identifies a breach of conduct, the grievance process is handled by the Mississippi State Personnel Board (MSPB). Licensed teachers and educators will receive a written notice from the MSPB providing the following information:
- Summary of why the individual faces disciplinary action.
- The opportunity to submit a written response.
- An appointed time and location for a hearing.
- A chance to waive the right to a hearing.
Hearings are typically an informal conference between agency officials and the licensee in question. Beforehand, the accused must be given at least five working days' notice prior to the hearing in order to prepare a response to the allegations. Depending on the severity of the alleged misconduct, teachers and educators can be put on administrative leave before a formal due process hearing, but compensation and employment status may not be adversely affected until afterward.
During the hearing, a representative of the MSPB may only consider the reasons stated in the written notice, related supporting documentation, and the licensee's response in their determination of whether sanctions are recommended. Factors they may consider include the following:
- The severity of the misconduct
- The SBE and MDE's mission and the licensee's duties.
- The licensee's assigned responsibilities
- Previous record of formal and informal disciplinary action.
The MSPB will then forward their findings and recommended corrective measures to the SBE. If a disciplinary notice is issued as a result of the hearing, the notice will include the reasons for substantiating the alleged misconduct and corrective measures, along with their effective dates. Some of the formal punishments include the following:
- Written reprimand: A formal notice intended to correct unacceptable behavior before disciplinary action reduces or terminates a licensee's method of employment and compensation.
- Suspension without pay: The temporary removal of a licensed teacher or educator from their responsibilities as an employee, not to exceed 30 workdays in a 12-month period.
- Demotion: Placement in a lower job class with a lower salary range.
- Dismissal: Loss of employment
Teachers and educators will have the opportunity to appeal the decision, but only under limited circumstances. Licensees must send a written request to the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board (MEAB) within 15 calendar days after receipt of the disciplinary notice. Regardless, dismissal or suspension of a licensed teacher or educator may result in the suspension or revocation of license for a length of time, which is determined by the MDE.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help Protect Your Educator Licensure
Any complaint against you is a threat to your Mississippi educator license. But even serious allegations that wind up dropped or not pursued can affect your livelihood. Without a robust representation, license holders enter a set of administrative procedures that they may not be familiar with, leaving them vulnerable to adverse action. 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 the stress investigations and sanctions can place on licensees. You've worked tirelessly to obtain your career credentials, so let the Lento Law Firm provide the defense you need to continue teaching. Not only will they make sure you are represented to the governing body, but they will also:
- Review the complaint and other relevant information to strategize.
- Assist in corresponding drafting to the MDE or MSPB and other authorities involved.
- Collect evidence and interview witnesses on your behalf.
- Lead negotiations with the MDE or MSPB to mitigate sanctions.
- File appeals with the Mississippi state court system if needed.
Teachers and educators may be professionals in the learning environment but leave the legal work for a Lento Law Firm attorney. Doing so will give you the assurance that you have a team fighting for your right to keep your educator licensure while you focus on teaching students.
Areas the Lento Law Firm Serves in Mississippi
Mississippi is home to a variety of schools and institutions throughout its five distinct regions. School climates reflect the populations they serve, which can be different between urban, suburban, and rural settings. Below is a general overview:
The Hills Region of northeast Mississippi is the transition point between the lower Appalachian foothills and the Coastal Plain. Oxford and Tupelo anchor the area's education access, with the Tupelo Public School District serving as the area's largest K-12 system and the University of Mississippi dominating higher education.
The Delta Region, in the northwest part of the state, is best known for its number of private schools in addition to rural school districts. The area is also home to four-year institutions like Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University.
The heavily wooded central area of Mississippi is centered around Starkville, where the Columbus Municipal School District and the Lowndes County School District are some of the largest employers. Institutions of higher education in the area include Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women.
Bordering the Gulf Coast, the Coastal Region includes Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi. The largest K-12 districts in the region include Forrest County Schools, the Lamar County School District, and the Hattiesburg Municipal Separate School District.
Mississippi's southwestern portion showcases the state's capital city of Jackson—a cultural, economic, and education hub. Aside from the Jackson Public School District's 60 institutions, the area is stocked with private and alternative schools. Postsecondary institutions in the Capital Region include Alcorn State University, Tougaloo College, Millsaps College, Belhaven University, and Jackson State University.
No matter where you are in Mississippi, you can access the help you require to retain your educator licensure. 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 licensure is a serious event in an individual's career with far-reaching implications. For instance, once a license is suspended or revoked, the following short-term consequences may affect you:
- Salary cut or terminated.
- Employment benefits like health insurance cease.
- Ineligible to teach in Mississippi.
- Potential adverse action on other licenses or professional certifications.
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 licensure 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 licensure for teaching or other professionals in other states.
- Forced to take non-licensed employment roles that may provide less pay and job security.
- Problems re-entering the field 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 Mississippi Teachers and Educators
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is dedicated to helping Mississippi teachers and educators navigate complaints against them. After gaining an education, pushing through licensure requirements, and maintaining state agency guidelines, you need a team that can represent you effectively, understand state license regulations, and broker a resolution with MDE, MSPB, or SBE officials.
Local lawyers may try to convince those undergoing the disciplinary process that they can use their courtroom experience to help argue their way out of sanctions. However, administrative hearings—those used by state licensing agencies—have different processes and evidentiary standards than those occurring in the courtroom. Moreover, local attorneys often use forceful tactics as a first line of defense. If you're a licensed teacher or educator, you need stress-free, comprehensive assistance in retaining your authorization to teach in Mississippi, not aggressive legal tactics that don't serve your best interests.
Get the assistance you need to properly defend yourself and maintain your teaching credentials. Call the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team at 888-535-3686 today for help, or schedule a consultation online.