There is the adage that teaching is a “thankless job.” With the long working hours, lower wages, and unappreciated effort, many teachers are in the profession because they genuinely care about their students and want to make a difference. However, limited resources coupled with immense pressure can easily lead to mistakes and misunderstandings - after all, no professional is perfect. North Dakota teachers, however, are held to a stringent standard, leaving little room for errors. If you find yourself being investigated by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, your professional teaching license, livelihood, and reputation may be on the line.
If you find yourself fighting for your license or appealing a disciplinary decision by the Department of Public Instruction, our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has experience standing up to the North Dakota 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 North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
The Education Standards and Practices Board, a branch of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, oversees teacher licensure, professional development, and professional practices for all educators within North Dakota.
In addition to ensuring that public members have access to quality education, the Department also oversees the state's disciplinary process for teachers and other educators.
Becoming a Teacher in North Dakota
Earning a North Dakota teaching license is no small task. Not only do future educators need to complete, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in their respective teaching field, but they must complete various other application requirements proving that they can maintain professional standards and serve as proper role models for their students. Some of the requirements include the following:
- Completion of a background check
- Completing the Praxis I, the Core Academic Skills for Educators exam. As part of this exam, applicants have qualifying scores in Reading, writing, and math or meet a higher composite score.
- Completion of application (including transcripts) requesting a license to teach in North Dakota.
- Additional licensure requirements may also be in place for educators seeking a career as a school psychologist, special educator, or school counselor.
Conduct and Responsibilities of North Dakota Teachers
Teachers in North Dakota are held to the state's Code of Professional Conduct for Educators, as outlined in §67.1-03-01-01 of the state's code (“Article 67.) Article 67 underscores the important role educators play in society by preserving and promoting the principles of democracy as well as the “worth and dignity of each human being” and student.” Article 67 discusses various ethical, moral, and professional obligations teachers in North Dakota must uphold.
Ethical and Moral Responsibilities
North Dakota educators must demonstrate a commitment to their students by respecting their varying points of view and protecting them from any conditions that may impact their learning conditions' physiological or psychological well-being. As part of their commitment to protecting students, Article 76 prohibits teachers from doing any of the following:
- “Intentionally suppress” a student's academic program.
- Engage in physical abuse or sexual conduct with a student.
- Harass, discriminate against, or grant “discriminatory advantage to a student based on race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, physical or mental conditions, family, social, or cultural background or sexual orientation.”
- Use professional relationships with a student for personal advantage.
- Disclose confidential information about a student in a manner not in accordance with state and federal laws.
In addition to Article 67, North Dakota has published a Model Code of Ethics for Educators (“MCEE”) that further helps educators understand their professional obligations. This code emphasizes the state's expectation that educators will hold themselves accountable for ethical conduct and uphold the “procedures, policies, laws, and regulations relevant to professional practice regardless of personal views.”
Article 67 also requires educators to demonstrate a commitment to teaching. Aside from maintaining the profession's integrity through serving as a proper role model to students and members of the public, North Dakota Teachers must cooperate with education standards and practices. North Dakota educators must also not:
- Sexually harass a fellow employee
- Share information about colleagues unless the disclosure “serves a compelling professional purpose.”
- Provide any false, fraudulent, or misleading statements on any professional document, application for licensure/employment, evaluations, or recommendations.
- Accept a gratuity, gift, or favor that might influence their professional advantage.
- Breach a professional employment contract.
- Discriminate against any person or colleague based on “race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, physical condition, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation.”
- Fail to distinguish between personal views and the views of the educational agency.
- Interfere in the “exercise of political and citizenship rights and responsibilities of others.”
The Disciplinary Process
The policies and procedures that make up the disciplinary process for North Dakota are addressed by the Code of Professional Conduct and the Education Standards and Practices Board (“ESPB”). The ESBP warns that grounds for discipline can result in a warning, reprimand, suspension, license revocation, or other disciplinary action.
North Dakota's policies are drafted to ensure educators receive 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 Department of Education will typically unfold in the following steps.
A complaint is initiated once a member of the public requests that the ESPB conduct an inquiry into the alleged misconduct by submitting an official inquiry form. The form must concisely specify what violations the educator allegedly committed and be made by someone who can “substantiate the incident or the situation.” After this, the ESPB will mail the educator a copy of the report by certified mail. The educator has 20 business days to respond to the complaint, and failure to do so will deem the allegations as true.
Evaluation and Investigation
Once ESBP receives the educator's response, they will schedule a time to review it through a preliminary discussion. ESBP will likely begin to evaluate the complaint through a thorough investigation at this stage. An investigator may request further explanation or statements from the accused teacher, or they may gather evidence by speaking with the teacher's colleagues, supervisors, or any other members of the public who may have witnessed the alleged incident. After investigating, ESPB determines if there are still grounds to pursue the complaint. If ESBP feels there are insufficient grounds to pursue the complaint, they can dismiss it and close the matter.
If ESPB proceeds with the complaint, a hearing will be held before a neutral hearing officer. At this hearing, both ESBP (the State) and the accused teacher can present their case. These hearings are run like small trials and typically consist of opening and closing statements, evidence, witness testimony, cross-examination, and arguments of law.
It may be possible to avoid going to a hearing if the State and educator reach a settlement agreement at a pre-hearing conference. These settlements are not guaranteed and will depend on various factors, including how strongly the educator feels about “cleaning their name,” which a settlement will not accomplish.
Although you may feel tempted to represent yourself, administrative hearings are no small task, especially for a layperson who needs to be better versed in the various federal, state, or local laws that will dictate the outcome of your case. Moreover, State counsel will not only be well-versed in the applicable laws and policies; they will have the entire state's resources and the experience of handling these types of matters daily. 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.
Following the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a written decision. Decisions will range from dismissing the matter to license suspensions, revocations, or other creative forms of disciplinary action such as fines, mandatory community service, anger management programs, continuing education hours, etc. If you are issued a decision that you disagree with, you may be able to appeal the decision by requesting a review of the outcome.
What About Private School Teachers?
According to North Dakota Century Code § 15.1-18-07, private school teachers in North Carolina must be certified or “approved to teach by the education standards and practices board and have a major in elementary education or its equivalent.” Although it is optional for private schools, under North Dakota Century Code § 15.1-06-06, the public instruction superintendent must “ approve all nonpublic schools offering elementary or secondary education.”
If you are facing professional misconduct allegations at a private school in North Dakota, 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 North Dakota Teaching License
Losing your teaching license can have long-lasting financial and personal consequences. From a professional standpoint, losing your teaching license can cause your career to come to an abrupt halt, making it next to impossible to become employed in the education sector again. Without a steady income, you will likely face financial difficulties, impacting your lifestyle and ability to pay bills and plan for the future, especially your retirement fund. Because you may be unable to find employment in your chosen field or your reputation may be affected in your local community, you may face relocation hurdles, drastically changing your day-to-day life and affecting your relationships and family life.
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 North Dakota Department of Education. We understand the work and strategic planning that must be utilized 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 53 counties in North Dakota. Some of the major metropolitan areas and their corresponding school districts include:
- Bismarck Public Schools
- Minot School District
- South Prairie School District
- Grand Forks
- Grand Forks School District
- Grand Forks Air Force Base School District
- Grand Forks Public Schools
- West Fargo
- West Fargo School District Number 6
- Williston Public School District 1
- Williston Basin School District # 7
- Eight Mile School District
- Williams County Schools
- Eight Mile School District #6
- Nesson School District 2
- Yellowstone School District 14
- Dickinson Public School District
- Dickinson Public Schools
- Richardson School District
- Billings County School District
- Killdeer School District 16
- Twin Buttes School District
- Jamestown Public School District #1
- Medina School District 3
- Kulm School District 7
- Carrington School District 49
- Barnes County North School District 007
- Mandan School District
- Portsmouth Public Schools
- Chesapeake School District
- Chesapeake City Schools
- Watford City
- McKenzie County School District 1
- Nesson School District 2
- Williston Public School District 1
- Killdeer School District 16
- Tioga School District 15
- Devil's Lake
- Devil's Lake Public Schools
- Ramsey County Schools
- Fort Totten School District 30
- Maddock School District 9
- Addams School District 128
Our Professional License Defense Team can also assist private teachers in fighting allegations in schools such as St. John Paul II Catholic Schools, Bishop Ryan Catholic School, Williston Trinity Christian School, and Standing Rock High School.
Fight for Your North Dakota Teaching License
If your North Dakota teaching license is being investigated for possible misconduct, you may feel like your entire world is crumbling around you! Not only are you worried about your current and future financial security, but the humiliation of having your integrity questioned can feel incredibly demoralizing. Fortunately, you are not alone! Our Professional License Defense Team routinely challenges state education departments and can help you craft a strategic defense to ensure the best possible outcome.
While you may feel like you are no match for the resources and experience the North Dakota Department of Education has on its side, we are! Contact us today, anytime, day or night, for a consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or using our online contact form.