Your passion for educating and developing young minds led you to get your certification as a K-12 school principal in New York. For years, you have devoted yourself to helping students learn, grow and succeed--this despite the lack of recognition or thanks sometimes associated with this role. Despite that, it is an incredibly rewarding experience watching your pupils flourish before your eyes. At the same time, if someone files a complaint against you and your credentials come into question, it can be extremely demoralizing at best--and possibly career-ending at worst.
The State of New York Department of Education holds K-12 principals to high standards of ethical and professional excellence, and the Office of the Professions (OP) diligently investigates every complaint. Whether someone is calling you out over an honest mistake or a mere lapse in judgment, if the matter escalates, it could result in having your credentials revoked.
The best way to avoid this outcome is to hire an experienced license defense attorney. A good lawyer will help you build a strong case and advise you on the disciplinary process, negotiate for leniency on your behalf, and generally improve your chances of emerging from the disciplinary process with your credentials intact. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the state's disciplinary processes inside and out, and he and his Professional License Defense Team will work diligently to get you a fair and favorable outcome. To discuss your case, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Allegations Could Put a Principal's Credentials at Risk?
K-12 school administrators (i.e., principals) are entrusted with the safety and well-being of hundreds or thousands of New Yorkers' children every day. Most accusations that could jeopardize your principal's credentials will have something to do with violating state codes or academic integrity, jeopardizing student safety, or otherwise breaching public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. As a K-12 principal, any kind of sexual misconduct with students could lead not only to revocation of your credentials but also criminal charges. Additionally, acts of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior toward coworkers or staff may also place your credentials in jeopardy.
- Ethics violations. Examples may include abusing one's power or influence, accepting bribes or gifts, or other acts of corruption.
- Drug and alcohol offenses. If a school principal abuses alcohol or drugs, it casts doubt on their judgment when it comes to student care and safety. Likewise, providing alcohol or drugs to minors is an offense quite likely to result in the loss of your certification and teaching credentials.
- Academic misconduct. Examples include falsifying test scores or attendance records, changing student grades inappropriately, enabling cheating, etc.
- Criminal convictions. If you are convicted of a crime, the Board may launch an investigation and take disciplinary actions. In New York, some felonies can permanently prevent you from working in schools in any capacity.
The License Disciplinary Process in New York
The New York State Education Department Office of the Professions (OP) has established an orderly and consistent disciplinary process for most professional licensees, such as principals. If you have been accused of misconduct, here is a timeline overviewing what to expect.
In New York, the start of any disciplinary action is typically initiated by filing a formal complaint with the OP. Any member of the public may file such a complaint, but if you're a K-12 principal, complainants are likely to be students or parents.
When a complaint has been filed, the OP will start an examination to decide if there is enough proof to back up the claims. This process typically includes interviewing any possible witnesses and the individual who made the claim, collecting pertinent documentation as evidence, scrutinizing all related facts and laws concerning the case, then verifying whether or not these findings call for further action. Should they find enough evidence, the case will be referred to New York State's Department of Education Board of Regents for further action.
If the Board feels confident about your violation, they may propose a consent order for you to sign instead of having a formal hearing. A consent order is a binding contract between you and the state that involves accepting whatever sanction or penalty the Board deems fit. If you find yourself in a position where disciplinary action is unavoidable, a consent order may be your most suitable option. A good attorney can negotiate with the Board for the most favorable terms, which may include lenient penalties, keeping your credentials, or conditions for reinstatement.
Hearing and Final Determination
If you choose not to sign a consent order or if the Board doesn't offer one, you will be summoned to a formal hearing in front of the Board to show cause why your credentials should not be revoked. During this process, both sides will have the opportunity to present their case and any supporting evidence. After carefully assessing the situation, the Board might choose to either dismiss your case or apply sanctions such as probation, suspension, or even the revocation of your principal's certificate and teaching credentials. It is highly beneficial to have a qualified lawyer represent you in this hearing.
Why Do You Need an Attorney?
The State of New York places a high premium on the integrity of its educational system and the well-being of students. Once a complaint is filed against you as a principal, your integrity and competency are called into question. There is no guaranteed presumption of innocence, and the Board can find you guilty based only on a preponderance of the evidence. In effect, you're at a disadvantage by default. The best way to overcome this disadvantage is by hiring an experienced New York license defense attorney, someone with specific knowledge of how these disciplinary systems work. A good attorney can present evidence to refute the allegations, defend you at a hearing, and even negotiate a favorable resolution before the matter even proceeds to a hearing.
If you're a K-12 school principal in New York who is accused of wrongdoing, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can greatly improve your chances of saving your credentials and your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.