Teachers often have a passion for knowledge and a deep-seated desire to make a lasting impact on others. Individuals who choose a career in teaching are most often empathetic, adaptable, and steadfastly committed to fostering a nurturing environment, regardless of the lack of praise. Teachers in New Hampshire are no exception and must often remain vigilant despite the state's limited resources for educators and significant pressure to perform. Long hours, lack of support, and mounting requests from administrators and parents can often leave New Hampshire teachers feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. In this state of mind, it's no surprise that mistakes or misunderstandings can take place. In some instances, however, these mishaps can be viewed as professional misconduct that suspends or revokes your New Hampshire teaching license.
If you find yourself fighting for your license or appealing a disciplinary decision by the Department of Education, our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has experience standing up to the New Hampshire bureaucracy and can help you craft a strategic defense through these allegations. Contact us today by calling (888) 535-3686 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
The New Hampshire Department of Education
The New Hampshire Department of Education is a state-level administrative agency that monitors the educational standards for students across the state and the professional requirements for educators. The Department maintains academic means for education and oversees public and private schools' approval and accreditation processes. The Department also sets and monitors professional standards of teacher licensure by providing educational support opportunities and investigating alleged instances of professional misconduct.
The New Hampshire Bureau of Credentialing
All teachers in New Hampshire must be credentialed by the Department of Education's Bureau of Credentialing, the agency tasked with administrating “established rules to evaluate the applications of candidates” for teaching credentials. Under the state's Credential Standards for Educational Personnel, at minimum, educators seeking to earn teaching credentials in New Hampshire must:
- Earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and be recommended for licensure by the same university or college.
- Complete a state-approved teaching preparation program.
- Earn passing scores on the Praxis Core Academic Skills Test, demonstrating essential Reading, Writing, and Mathematics skills.
- Earn a passing score on the Praxis Subject Assessments, demonstrating subject-specific knowledge.
- Submit to fingerprinting and background checks.
- Complete an application for licensure and pay a non-refundable fee to the Bureau of Credentialing.
- If already licensed in another state, meet reciprocity requirements.
- Complete the requisite number of student teaching hours specific to their field.
What Standards Must New Hampshire Teachers Continue to Meet?
Code of Conduct
Under Section 510.01 of the state's education code, New Hampshire teachers must continue to meet the state's code of conduct, as summarized below.
Responsibility to the Education Profession and Educational Professionals
This principle requires educators to “exemplify honesty and integrity” by refraining from unprofessional conduct. Some examples of unprofessional conduct include:
- Discrimination against fellow professionals.
- Failure to self-report arrests within the following time frame.
- Fraud or misrepresentation of qualifications when applying for a credential or employment position.
- Unlawful possession of drugs.
- Possessing, using, or being under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs while on school property or during a school-sponsored activity.
- Failure to comply with or deliberately mispresenting facts during an official inquiry or investigation.
Responsibility to Students
Educators play a monumental role in their student's lives. Educators must maintain professional relationships with their students, protect them from unsafe conditions, and refrain from unprofessional conduct that may harm or deteriorate their relationships. Some examples of unprofessional conduct for New Hampshire teachers include:
- Discrimination against students.
- Failure to appropriately supervise students during school-sponsored activities.
- Providing students with or encouraging students to consume alcohol or illegal/unauthorized use of drugs.
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Cruelty or any act of endangerment.
- Soliciting or encouraging sexual activity.
- Soliciting or encouraging criminal activity, including within ten months post-graduation or departure.
Responsibility to the School Community
Because educators are crucial to the community, they must communicate responsibly with all school community members and only engage in actions that maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Some examples of unprofessional conduct that may deviate from these boundaries include:
- Accepting or soliciting gratuities, gifts, or favors for personal use, excluding small amounts.
- Misuse of funds intended for school use.
- Altering or misrepresenting a student's assessments, grades, or official school records.
Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
Undoubtedly, technology has become an integral tool that educators use to connect with students and enhance their lesson plans. Unprofessional use of technology may include the following:
- Engaging students in inappropriate activities or communication through electronic media or social media, including within ten months post-graduation or departure. Inappropriate communication can include things that could “reasonably be interpreted as solicitous, sexually explicit, or romantic.
Code of Ethics
New Hampshire Educators are bound to the state's code of Ethics, which requires educators to demonstrate commitment to the educational profession, colleagues, students, community, and the use of technology. The code of ethics is summarized below.
Responsibility and Commitment to the Education Profession and Colleagues
This principle recognizes that New Hampshire educators must maintain a “high level of professional ethics” regardless of their viewpoints. To support this standard, educators must demonstrate ethical standards by demonstrating a commitment to the following values:
- A demonstrated respect for intellectual property and ownership rights while creating lesson plans or sharing educational materials.
- Placing importance on a colleague's professional reputation while speaking with them.
- A commitment to communicate respectfully and appropriately in a “culturally sensitive manner.”
- An understating of the ramifications of accepting inappropriate gratuities, gifts, favors, or the use of institutional or professional privileges.
Responsibility and Commitment to Students
The state recognizes that educators are “imbued with public trust” and must maintain “appropriate verbal, physical, emotional, and social boundaries” with students. To meet this high standard, educators must:
- Limit interactions with students to appropriate settings.
- Communicate with students in “a clear, respectful, and culturally sensitive manner.”
- Consider the ramifications of accepting inappropriate gifts, gratuities, or favors from students.
- Respect the confidential information of students and their families.
Responsibility to the School Community
New Hampshire educators must also maintain and model effective relationships with all members of the educational community. To fulfill this principle, educators must:
- Communicate respectfully with students, families, and colleagues, committing to the student's best interests.
- Respect and abide by a standard of confidentiality.
- Demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equality, equity, and inclusion of colleagues, staff, students, parents/guardians, and other school community members.
- Understand the boundaries of and the multiple roles that educators often serve within the school and how these roles may impair objectivity.
Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
Educators must demonstrate a commitment to “consuming, creating, distributing, and communicating” technological information respectfully and lawfully by
- Utilizing social media responsibly.
- Consider the ramifications of using social media and how the public may perceive educators.
- Maintaining appropriate boundaries and prudence while communicating with students.
The Disciplinary Process
The Department of Education investigates reported instances of professional and ethical misconduct by New Hampshire educators. Following a proper investigation, the department can either dismiss the matter, issue a warning to the educator, or issue a more drastic order of suspension or license revocation.
The Department cannot, however, initiate disciplinary actions unless it ensures that the educator receives due process rights throughout the disciplinary process. 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 Board will typically unfold in the following steps.
A complaint is made to the New Hampshire Department of Education by a student, public member, colleague, or supervisor alleging professional, ethical, or moral misconduct. Complaints can be made confidentially, depending on who is reporting the misconduct.
After receiving a complaint, the Department of Investigation investigates the allegations and notifies the teacher that a complaint has been lodged against them. Throughout this process, the Department may ask to speak to witnesses, review documents, or inspect other evidence of misconduct. During this investigatory period, educators are allowed to respond to the allegations against them, usually in writing, and provide any additional evidence in their favor. Educators must be notified about the investigation results and have a report copy.
Settlement Conferences and Administrative Hearing
It may be possible to avoid going to a hearing if the Department and educator reach a settlement agreement at a pre-hearing conference. Settlements are not guaranteed and vary from case to case. Typical settlement negotiations offer the teacher a lower disciplinary action, such as license suspension or fines. Settlements will not, however, allow educators to “clear their name.”
If the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement or the educator feels strongly about clearing their name and dismissing the case, an administrative hearing will be held. Though not a civil trial, this hearing is formal, and each party will be able to present opening and closing statements, submit evidence and testimony, cross-examine witnesses, and make arguments of fact and law. Additional legal necessities may be ordered, such as drafting legal briefs, ordering subpoenas, proof of pre-hearing settlement attempts, etc. Each step must be conducted according to the timelines and formatting requirements of the New Hampshire Administrative Code.
Although you may feel tempted to represent yourself, administrative hearings are complex, especially for a layperson. Hearings require extensive knowledge of federal, state, and local education laws and an understanding of trial rules and laws of evidence. Working with our Professional License Defense Team ensures that your defense is handled in a strategic manner that will optimize your chances of success.
What About Private School Teachers?
The New Hampshire Department of Education does not require private school teachers to have teaching certificates. This does not mean, however, that teachers at private schools are exempt from misconduct allegations leading to the termination of their employment contracts. Many private schools, especially faith-based and parochial schools, have even more stringent professional, ethical, and moral obligations that staff must fulfill. If you are facing professional misconduct allegations at a private school in New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire Teaching License
Losing your New Hampshire teaching license can bring financial and personal challenges, making your journey back to stability feel impossible. Losing your license can have life-altering consequences for you and your family. The stress and anxiety of the investigation and disciplinary results can bleed into your emotional threshold, negatively affecting relationships with your family and friends. Your future retirement plans can also come to a screeching halt, forcing you to reevaluate your goals and next steps.
Without a license, gaining future employment in any educational setting outside New Hampshire will be tough, if not impossible. In fact, New Hampshire publishes an annual list of educators who have had their licenses revoked or suspended for unprofessional or unethical violations. Future employers may easily access this list by conducting a Google search or informal inquiry into your past employment history.
Areas Our Professional License Defense Team Serves in New Hampshire
Our Professional License Defense Team is available to assist teachers facing licensure actions throughout the state's counties. Some of the major metropolitan areas and their corresponding school districts include:
- Concord School District
- Merrimack Valley School District
- Manchester School District
- Goffstown School District
- Bedford School District
- Bow School District
- London Derry School District
- Nashua School District
- Keene School District
- Sau 70 School District
- Profile School District
- Laconia School District
- Sunapee School District
- Lebanon School District
Our Professional License Defense Team can also assist private teachers in fighting allegations in schools such as Phillips Exeter Academy, St. Paul's School, Dublin School, Holderness School, Kimball Union Academy, and The White Mountain School.
Fight for Your New Hampshire Teaching Certificate
If you are facing a New Hampshire license revocation, you likely feel shocked, saddened, and overwhelmed with the weight of how to proceed. Although you may feel isolated, you are not alone! Our Professional License Defense Team can help by building a strategic defense, safeguarding your reputation, and protecting your livelihood. We will do everything possible to obtain the best possible results for your unique circumstances. Contact us today, anytime, day or night, for a consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or using our online contact form.