From adapting to the diverse learning needs of a multicultural student population to navigating the intricate nuances of state educational policies, New Mexico teachers face many unique challenges. Amidst these challenges, the looming threat of having your teaching license reviewed for potential suspension or revocation is a devastating prospect. For many, teaching is not just a profession but a calling. The thought of losing your license can bring profound personal and professional anguish.
Mistakes and misunderstandings can happen with this enormous pressure placed on New Mexico educators. If the New Mexico Public Education Department (the “Department”) investigates you for potential teaching licensure violations, don't fight the state's bureaucracy alone! Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team today by calling 888-535-3686 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
The New Mexico Public Education Department
The New Mexico Public Education Department is primarily responsible for issuing, renewing, and monitoring teaching licenses within the State of New Mexico. The Department also offers educators training, resources, and support to help them improve their teaching practices and stay updated with the latest research in their respective fields. For students, the Department sets academic standards for schools and oversees the implementation of those standards.
In the event of unprofessional, unethical, or immoral conduct, the Department investigates teachers and issues decisions on whether an educator's license should be suspended or revoked.
New Mexico's Three-Tiered Teaching Licensure System
New Mexico Teaching Licenses are implemented through an ongoing three-tiered licensure system, each requiring candidates to demonstrate appropriate skillsets and growth to progress to the next level. The tiered system is meant to provide a structured career ladder for educators while also ensuring that students have competent and qualified teachers through frequent monitoring of state educators. The state's three tiers are as follows:
- Level 1 - Provisional Teacher: This entry-level license is valid for the first five years of a teacher's profession. Level 1 teachers must be at least 18 years old, hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited school, successfully pass the state's teacher assessments, and must have completed a program from a state board-approved teaching program.
- Level 2 - Professional Teacher: This is a mid-level license that teachers may apply for after completing 3 years of teaching. Level 2 teachers must meet all the requirements of Level 1 and further demonstrate relevant competency in their field (early elementary school, high school, etc.). Professional teaching licenses are renewable every five years.
- Level 3 - Master Teacher: Level 3 teachers must meet all levels 1 and 2 requirements. To reach Level 3, teachers must earn a master's degree, demonstrate excellence in teaching, and satisfy additional requirements particular to competency in their field. Level 3 applicants must also demonstrate “instructional leader competency.” Level 3 licenses are valid for nine years.
The New Mexico Public Education Department reserves the right to deny applications for level advancements where teachers have failed to meet licensing requirements or have engaged in unprofessional, unethical, or immoral conduct. If the New Mexico Public Education Department has denied your application for licensure advancement, contact our Professional License Defense Team today by calling 888-535-3686 or by filling out our convenient online contact form.
Conduct and Responsibilities of New Mexico Teachers
New Mexico has established rules and regulations addressing behavior that could jeopardize a teaching license to ensure the teaching profession maintains its standards.
Ethical and Moral Responsibilities
Title 6, Chapter 60, Part 9 of the state's Primary and Secondary Education Statutes outlines the ethical responsibilities and professional conduct expected of New Mexico educators. The code states that failure to comply can lead to possible revocation or suspension of any educator's license. Some requirements of educators under this code include the following:
- Commitment to students and a belief that each student can advance toward “achievement of his/her maximum potential.”
- The ability to deal justly and considerably with students, as well as the ability to encourage students to express their own viewpoints.
- Commitment to community as demonstrated through participation in developing educational programs.
- The ability to appropriately use time granted “for professional purposes” and maintain the profession's integrity in writing, communications, or other public roles.
The code also discusses prohibited conduct, which includes some of the following:
- Releasing confidential information.
- Committing any act of child abuse or sexual misconduct.
- Engaging in discriminatory practices based on race, religion, gender, etc.
- Providing transportation to a student in one's vehicle.
Title 6, Chapter 60, Part 9 also addresses professional standards New Mexico educators must follow. Like their ethical responsibilities, failure to meet these standards can result in possible license suspension or revocation. New Mexico's professional responsibilities are very stringent and based upon the code's language that the public has vested the “education profession with an awesome trust and responsibility . . . [and] to live up to that lofty expectation,” teachers must consistently act with professional integrity. Some examples of prohibited professional conduct under the code include:
- Making false or misleading statements on employment or licensure documents.
- Disclosing confidential material about colleagues or students.
- Accepting any gift exceeding $100 from students or their families in connection with their duties as a teaching professional.
- Engaging in inappropriate displays of affection with staff, colleagues, or students.
- Discriminating against any school employee based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or serious medical condition.
- Engaging in outside employment.
The Disciplinary Authority of the New Mexico Public Education Department
Under the state's Public School Code contained in §22-10A-31, The New Mexico Department of Public Education may deny, suspend, or revoke a department-issued license for incompetency, moral turpitude, ethical misconduct, or any other good and just cause. Regarding “denying a license,” this also applies to the Department's refusal to grant promotions to new tiers under New Mexico's three-tiered teaching licensure system.
Denial, Suspension, and Revocation of License
According to Title 6, Chapter 58, Part 2 of the State's Primary and Secondary Education statutes, the Department's licensing bureau retains the right to deny an application for a teaching license where an applicant “has failed to satisfy all testing or competency requirements.” Under this code, the Department also reserves the right to deny licensure for “good and just cause” such as:
- Making a material misstatement of fact on a licensing application.
- Willful violation of standards of conduct for school personnel
- Convictions involving felonies or misdemeanors that qualify as “moral turpitude.”
- Failure to comply with court orders regarding parental responsibilities
Procedures Required for Licensure Denial, Suspension, and Revocation
Title 6, Chapter 68, Part 2 of the state's code entitled Denial, Suspension, and Revocation of License, provides detailed instructions on the procedures that must be employed before the licensing bureau can make a final decision of licensing denial. At the school board level, the local school district must first take the following steps:
- The school board must hold two or more conferences with the applicant.
- At least 90 days must pass between the two conferences to allow the applicant sufficient time to “demonstrate the required competencies.”
- The local school board shall provide a written record of the conferences that details what the applicant has not satisfactorily demonstrated.
If applications are formally denied, applicants must be served a written notice of the Department's intent to deny the application and the grounds for denial. The notice shall also contain instructions for requesting a hearing before the Department fully disclosing the applicant's rights. It's important to note that the state's procedural requirements for the hearing are very stringent, and failure to request a hearing within the appropriate timeline may result in automatic denial.
If you have received notice that the New Mexico Department of Public Education intends to deny your application for teaching licensure, our Professional License Defense Team can help you by communicating with the Department on your behalf and, if necessary, representing your interests at a hearing held in front of the licensing bureau.
Suspensions, Revocations, and Other Disciplinary Actions
Title 6, Chapter 68, Part 3 of the state's code entitled Suspension, Revocation or Other Disciplinary Action Regarding a License Held By a Licensed School Individual addresses the denial, suspension, and revocation of licenses of New Mexico licensed educators on disciplinary grounds.
This code also lays out the disciplinary steps and procedural requirements that must be met to ensure that educators being investigated are treated fairly and given the opportunity to respond to the allegations against them, a right known as “due process” in legal settings. To ensure New Mexico educators receive due process, disciplinary actions follow the following steps:
- Inquiry and Investigation: The director of an assigned ethics bureau from the state initiates appropriate inquiries to investigate whether grounds exist for possible suspension or revocation. Investigations can include things like speaking to witnesses, reviewing documents, etc.
- Notice of Contemplated Action: After determining that grounds exist for possible suspension or revocation, the ethics bureau or the licensing bureau must serve the educator with written notice of the contemplated action by the Department that includes the grounds for disciplinary action, instructions for requesting a hearing before the Department, and a copy of the educator's rights under the law.
- Prehearing Procedures: If the educator is challenging the proposed actions by the Department, the educator must file a request for a hearing with the Department.
- Prehearing Discovery: The Department and the educator are granted a limited time frame to gather evidence and subpoena witnesses for presentation at the hearing.
- Hearing: A formal hearing will be held before an impartial hearing office. The general counsel represents the Department at this meeting. The educator may choose an attorney of their choosing. During the hearing, both parties will present evidence, examine witnesses, and make arguments on their behalf.
- Hearing Officer's Report: After reviewing all of the relevant evidence, arguments, and laws presented at the hearing, the hearing officer drafts a recommendation to the Department entitled an “Officer's Report.”
- The Department's Decision: The Department reviews the contents of the Hearing Officer's Report and issues a decision based on the “preponderance of the evidence.” The Department may adopt the officer's decision, modify it, or reopen the case to receive additional information.
If the educator challenges the Department's decision, they may request an appeal.
What About Private School Teachers?
Private school teachers in New Mexico are not held to the exact licensure requirements as public school teachers. This does not mean private schools don't have rigorous standards for hiring their teachers. Many private schools may hire licensed teachers with the same advanced degrees and credentials as public school educators. From a disciplinary standpoint, however, private school teachers do not need to report to the Department for disciplinary conduct issues.
Consequences of Losing Your New Mexico Teaching License
Losing your New Mexico teaching license can have devastating financial and personal effects on your life. Not only can the stress of the investigation strain your relations immensely, but you can also struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression.
Professionally, losing your license can damage your professional reputation, making it difficult for you to obtain future employment. You may not be allowed to teach anywhere or work in a profession that involves minors.
Finally, losing your teaching license can disrupt your pension benefits and retirement plans, especially if you had planned on a long-term career in education.
How the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help
Our Professional License Defense Team understands the work you have put into achieving your professional license. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your interests are presented before the New Mexico Department of Public Education. We understand your case's legal nuances and procedural requirements and will work to achieve the best possible result for your unique challenges.
Areas Our Professional License Defense Team Serves
Our Professional License Defense Team is available to assist teachers facing licensure actions in all 33 counties located within New Mexico. We are open to representing teaching professionals in all 33 counties and within the following major metropolitan areas and some of their corresponding school districts.
- Alburquerque Metropolitan Area
- Mission Achievement & Success School District
- Albuquerque Public Schools School District
- Estancia Municipal Schools School District
- Farmington Metropolitan Area
- Farmington Municipal Schools School District
- Central Consolidated School District
- Las Cruces Metropolitan Area
- Las Cruces Public Schools School District
- Elmira City School District
- Santa Fe Metropolitan Area
- Espanola Public Schools School District
- Pojoaque Valley Public Schools
- Moriarty Municipal Schools School District
- Santa Fe Public Schools
Our Professional License Defense Team can assist private teachers in fighting allegations in Hope Christian Schools, Albuquerque Academy, Sandia Preparatory School, and the Bosque School.
Fight for Your New Mexico Teaching License
Our Professional License Defense Team will take the time to understand your unique circumstances and fight for your teaching license. We are equipped to face the resources that the New Mexico Department of Public 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.