You embarked on a career as an educator because of your passion for nurturing young minds--and that path has led you all the way from earning your teaching credentials to achieving certification as a New Jersey K-12 school principal. The job is often a thankless one, but highly rewarding. At the same time, your position comes with a lot of responsibility and a high level of accountability. The New Jersey State Department of Education holds its educators to high standards of ethical and professional excellence, and a single complaint or allegation of misconduct can easily escalate into disciplinary action that could cost you your certification and even your career.
If you're a K-12 principal accused of wrongdoing, your best hope of keeping your credentials is by hiring an experienced New Jersey license defense attorney. A reliable lawyer can assist in crafting an effective counterargument, provide insight into the discipline process, and advocate for leniency with the Board. Most importantly, they will give you the best chance of maintaining your credentials after everything is said and done. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience assisting with cases like yours, and he and his Professional License Defense Team can greatly improve your chances of a fair and favorable outcome. To discuss your case, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Accusations Could Endanger Your Career?
As a K-12 school principal, you are responsible for the protection and well-being of hundreds or thousands of New Jersey children each day. Offenses that could possibly threaten your credentials typically involve breaching public trust by violating state codes or academic integrity, as well as putting students in danger. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Not only can sexual misconduct with students result in the forfeiture of your credentials, but it could potentially be accompanied by criminal charges. Any type of inappropriate behavior toward coworkers or staff may likewise place you at risk of facing consequences, including revocation of your credentials.
- Ethics violations. Examples of corruption may include exploiting one's position or authority, taking extortionate payments or rewards, and other forms of unethical behavior.
- Drug and alcohol offenses. When a school principal drinks to excess or uses drugs, it casts doubt on their capability to make sound decisions concerning the protection and well-being of students. Additionally, supplying minors with alcohol or drugs is an offense punishable by revocation of certification and teaching credentials.
- Academic misconduct. If you enable cheating, alter test scores, change student grades without justification, or otherwise act to give certain students an unfair advantage over others, you could lose your credentials over these acts of misconduct.
- Criminal convictions. In New Jersey, if you are found guilty of certain crimes, the Board may initiate an investigation and may take disciplinary action. Some felonies can even result in permanent disqualification from working at any school in the state.
What Happens if I Am Accused of Wrongdoing?
The disciplinary process against school principals usually begins with some form of formal complaint filed with the Department of Education--often by either a student, a parent, or possibly an employee or fellow faculty member. The process of how the Department of Education determines fault and issues discipline may vary based on the type of offense. Depending on the circumstances, you may face an investigation and/or hearing in front of the School Ethics Commission (for alleged violation of New Jersey's School Ethics Act) or the State Board of Examiners (for other types of alleged wrongdoing).
For most cases of alleged misconduct, the Board will serve you notice of the complaint and ask you to submit a written response under oath. They may also investigate the allegations to look for probable cause to validate the complaint. If the Board finds sufficient evidence and/or the complainant offers significant proof, a formal hearing will be called, during which both sides will present evidence, and you'll be asked to show cause why you should be allowed to retain your K-12 principal certification and/or teaching credentials. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board will make a final determination of guilt or innocence and decide on what penalties to invoke--ranging from reprimands or fines to fully revoking your certificate.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Because being an educator or school administrator is a position that relies on public trust, you need to understand that you're not given a guaranteed presumption of innocence if you are accused. The Department of Education has a duty to the children first (as it should), and it is given broad authority to impose disciplinary actions on principals, administrators, and educators whom they believe pose a risk to the integrity of the system or the safety of the children. As a result, they can find you guilty based on a preponderance of the evidence, meaning they only have to be 51 percent convinced that you committed the offense.
To ensure that you receive fair treatment throughout this process and minimize the chances of your credentials being revoked, you should enlist the help of an experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. A good attorney can help you navigate the complex disciplinary process, provide invaluable assistance in preparing your case and responding to allegations, act as your official representative in all interactions with the Board, and represent you in any formal hearings. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate a settlement that allows you to keep your teaching credentials while still facing some form of discipline.
Don't gamble your hard-earned career as a New Jersey K-12 school principal in the face of disciplinary action. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team will actively fight for you, striving to secure a favorable outcome that allows you to move forward with certainty and peace of mind. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.