As a teacher in Nebraska, you have made many sacrifices to become a teacher. Once you become a teacher, the long hours, lower wages, and unappreciated work may feel like these sacrifices will never end. With all the stress and pressures of teaching, mistakes and misunderstandings at work can quickly occur, jeopardizing your professional reputation and livelihood. If the Nebraska Department of Education investigates you for alleged misconduct, your teaching license may be at risk of revocation or suspension. However, you do not simply need to accept these allegations. You can fight. Our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has experience standing up to the Nebraska bureaucracy and can help you carve a path forward. We understand the work you have put into earning your license and your many sacrifices. Contact us today by calling (888) 535-3686 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
The Nebraska Department of Education
The Nebraska Department of Education is an elected body of officials who form, plan, and evaluate Nebraska's public education system. Some of the Department's goals are divided into three strategic sections that serve the public, students, and professionals within the state, as follows:
- Leadership: The Department strives to ensure that the state's educational system adopts proper responsibilities and leadership roles that “enhance support systems within the state.”
- Success, Support, and Access: The Department strives to ensure that all persons within the state, “regardless of background or circumstances,” have equitable access to educational systems and support. The Department hopes to accomplish this by providing all students with proper early, primary, and secondary educational opportunities.
- Teaching, Learning, and Serving: The Department hopes to increase the number of students who are prepared “for success in postsecondary education, career, and civic life.” As part of this process, the Department emphasizes its commitment to providing qualified, effective, and credentialed teachers as part of the state's Educator's Effectiveness agenda.
In addition to ensuring that public members have access to quality education, the Department also oversees the state's licensure and disciplinary process for teachers and other educators.
Becoming a Teacher in Nebraska
If you have earned your teaching License in Nebraska, you have worked hard and made many sacrifices along the way to meet the state's stringent licensure requirements. Not only must teachers hold a four-year degree from an accredited university or college, but they must also complete proper teacher preparation steps, including:
- Completing the requisite student teaching and observation hours in their respective field.
- Completion of a teaching internship in their respective field.
- Human relations training.
- Completion of a special education course.
- Successful completion of the Praxis Subject Assessments in their relevant field of study.
- Passage of a federal and state background check.
- Completed application for licensure submitted to the Department of Education.
Conduct and Responsibilities of Nebraska Teachers
After Nebraska teachers earn their teaching licenses, the Department monitors teachers for continuing educational pursuits and professional standards. If a teacher fails to meet the professional, ethical, or moral standards required, the Department has the authority to initiate a disciplinary process with consequences ranging from citations to suspension or revocation of licenses.
Ethical and Moral Responsibilities
Nebraska educators are held to a strict Code of Ethics. This Code underlines teachers' critical role in society and the importance of maintaining the profession's integrity for the public. Some of the moral and ethical responsibilities stressed in this code include:
- A demonstrable commitment to uphold the dignity of human beings, devotion to excellence, and pursuit of democratic citizenship.
- A willingness to engage with colleagues, supervisors, students, and the public in a manner open to suggestions for professional improvement.
- A commitment to the ongoing responsibility to demonstrate good moral character, “maintain high standards of performance, and promote equality and opportunity,” specifically by refraining from interfering with students', colleagues', and the political and citizenship rights of students, colleagues, and the public.
- The ability to act in a manner free from discrimination based on “race, color, creed, gender, marital status, age, national origin, ethnic background or disability.”
- In addition to these moral and ethical requirements, the Code prohibits the following acts:
- The use of coercive means to influence students or professional decisions.
- Fraudulent statements.
- Failure to provide notice to an employer regarding a change of position.
- Misuse of time at work or abuse of granted leave time/opportunities.
- Sexual harassment of students, colleagues, or the general public.
- Prohibit students from accessing varying points of view.
- Failure to conduct professional and educational activities “in accordance with sound educational practices that are in the student's best interest.”
- Corporal punishment.
- Providing educational services to students for financial reimbursement or other gain.
Under this same Code, Nebraska teachers must demonstrate a commitment to the public by ensuring they meet professional responsibilities woven into their licenses and contractual obligations. Most professional responsibilities require teachers to demonstrate a commitment to the educational institution and District/school in which they are employed. As part of this commitment, the state of Nebraska expects its teachers to refrain from using institutional privileges to promote things for personal gain, such as other endeavors, viewpoints, political ideas, etc.
What About Criminal Convictions?
As required under the state's Code of Ethics for teachers, teachers may not “commit any act of moral turpitude, or any Felony under the laws of the United States, or any state or territory.” Teachers must also not be convicted of any misdemeanor involving abuse, neglect, or sexual misconduct, as described in Title 92, Chapter 21 of the state's codes. This requirement excludes instances where a teacher or educator has had a conviction set aside or expunged. Some of the crimes that the Nebraska Department of Education considers:
- Domestic Violence
- Malicious Destruction of Property
- Animal Abuse
- Theft, robbery, and receiving of stolen goods.
The Disciplinary Process
Title 92, Chapter 28, Rule 28 of the Nebraska Administrative Code outlines the regulations and standards used throughout the investigations and hearings of teacher license violations. The standards and regulations are drafted to ensure that educators receive due process rights before any disciplinary action that could affect their teaching license. Due process is a term that affords an accused individual the right to be notified about the allegations against them and present their side of the story before a neutral arbitrator. To ensure that educators receive due process, the disciplinary process employed by the Department of Education will typically unfold in the following steps.
A complaint is made to the Department of Education about an educator by “anyone having an interest in, or information about, an alleged violation of professional practices . . .” Within 15 days of receiving the complaint, the Department must serve a copy of the complaint to the educator via certified mail. At this point, the educator has 15 days to respond to the complaint or request the opportunity to present a defense of the allegations in the complaint. The educator may ask to submit a written defense, but the educator is also entitled to a personal conference with an investigator assigned by the Department of Education.
Evaluation and Investigation
After initiating the complaint, the Department of Education investigates where they determine if the “facts alleged are sufficient to constitute a violation. . . '' Throughout the investigation, the investigator may ask to speak to the educator, examine witnesses, or collect evidence that sheds further light on the alleged incident. The investigator must then prepare a report for the Department of Education that includes their findings, the Department's jurisdiction, legal authorities, and the defenses provided by the educator. This report must recommend whether there are any grounds for further disciplinary proceedings and whether dismissal, further investigation, admonishment, or suspension are warranted. The educator must be provided with a copy of this report.
The Commissioner of the Department of Education reviews the report and determines whether to dismiss the complaint (because the alleged violations are not severe enough), approve a stipulation or resettlement agreement, or proceed to a hearing.
The administrative hearing is held before a neutral hearing officer in Lincoln or Lancaster County unless both parties agree to a more convenient location. At the hearing, the state and the educator can present arguments of fact law to support their position. Evidence and testimony can also be presented. Before the hearing, a hearing officer may request that the parties submit a legal brief outlining their legal roles and expected outcomes. If either party wants to use particularly complicated evidence, the hearing officer may request the parties to file and serve copies of the evidence on the other party before the hearing. Following the hearing, the hearing officer prepares an official recommendation to dismiss the allegations or issue disciplinary orders such as license suspension or revocation. If you disagree with the outcome of the hearing, you may be able to request an appeal.
Although you may feel tempted to represent yourself, administrative hearings are no small task, especially for a layperson who is not well-versed in the various federal, state, or local laws that will dictate the outcome of your case. Moreover, state-appointed counsel will be well-versed in the applicable laws and policies and have the entire state's resources at their disposal. Working with our Professional License Defense Team ensures that you are well-matched at the hearing and approaching your case in a strategic manner that will optimize your chances of success.
What About Private School Teachers?
Under § 79-802 of Nebraska's general statutes, teachers in private, denominational, or parochial schools in “accredited and approved schools” must have a valid Nebraska certificate or permit to teach. However, some private schools in the state may request to be exempt from these requirements, meaning that they are not considered approved or accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education. In these instances, teachers at these exempt schools will not be required to hold a license issued by the Department of Education and will not be subject to its disciplinary procedures.
However, this does not mean that teachers at exempt schools are not held to a similar, if not more stringent, policy that demands ethical, moral, and professional duties. If you are a teacher at a private school in Nebraska, such as Creighton Preparatory School, Saint Vincent De Paul School, or North American Martyrs School, and your license or employment is currently threatened due to misconduct allegations, we can help. Contact our Professional License Defense Team for assistance by calling (888) 535-3686 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
Consequences of Losing Your Nebraska Teaching License
Losing your teaching license can have long-lasting financial and personal consequences, affecting your ability to provide for your family and retire comfortably. Still, the stress can bleed into your relationship with your spouse, children, and friends. Having your professional integrity challenged can also damage your professional reputation, making it difficult for you to obtain future employment.
How the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help
Our Professional License Defense Team routinely represents teachers facing misconduct violations from the Department of Education. We understand the work and strategic planning that must be involved to challenge the state's bureaucracy and optimize your chances of success. Working with our team will also give you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your career, family, and well-being.
Areas Our Professional License Defense Team Serves
Our Professional License Defense Team is available to assist teachers facing licensure actions in all 93 counties in Nebraska. Some of the major metropolitan areas and their corresponding school districts include:
- Omaha Public Schools
- Westside Community Schools District
- Millard Public Schools District
- Gretna Public Schools District
- DC West Community Schools District
- Lincoln Public Schools
- Crete Public Schools
- Freeman Public Schools
- Malcolm Public School District
- Milford Public Schools
- Norris School District
- Raymond Central Public Schools
- Wilber Clatonia Public Schools
- Bellevue Public Schools
- Grand Island
- Grand Island Public Schools
- Kearney Public Schools
- Boys & Girls Home of Nebraska School District
- Richard Young RTC School
- I Believe In Me Ranch School District
- Fremont Public Schools
- Bellevue Public Schools
- Papillion-La Vista Public Schools
- Gretna Public Schools
- Springfield Platteview Community Schools
- Hastings Public Schools
- Norfolk Public Schools
- Columbus Public Schools
- Lakeview Community Schools
- Boys & Girls Home of Nebraska School District
Our Professional License Defense Team can also assist private teachers in fighting allegations in Hope Christian Schools, Albuquerque Academy, Sandia Preparatory School, and the Bosque School.
Fight for Your Nebraska Teaching License
Don't fight these allegations alone! Our Professional License Defense Team not only cares about your professional reputation and ability to provide for your family, but we are equipped to face the resources that the Nebraska Department of Education has on its side. Contact us today, anytime, day or night, for a consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or using our online contact form.