Aspiring educators in Pennsylvania have plenty of opportunities to grow and advance in their careers, with over 500 school districts across the state. Teachers work hard to complete all education, training, and exam requirements necessary to obtain certification. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) understands the value good, qualified teachers provide to students, helping guide them through elementary school, preparing them for college through their high school years, filling their minds with knowledge during their college and post-graduate years, and help them become product adults in whatever profession they choose.
When someone makes an accusation of misconduct about a certified educator to the PDE, all that educator's training and experience comes into question. The professional reputation and career they worked years to build are in jeopardy. You must fight for your rights if someone accuses you of professional wrongdoing. You need to retain legal representation and defend your career at all costs. Contact the nationwide Professional License Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or through our online form and let us fight for you.
Legal Powers the Pennsylvania Department of Education Has to Discipline You
In PA, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has the authority to oversee and regulate the certification, conduct, and professional standards of educators in Pennsylvania.
PDE is responsible for issuing teaching certificates and licenses to educators in Pennsylvania. As part of this responsibility, they establish the requirements for certification, including educational qualifications and testing. PDE can suspend or revoke a teacher's certification if they are found to have violated professional standards or engaged in misconduct.
The Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC) is charged with reviewing allegations of educator misconduct and deciding on disciplinary action. The PSPC is responsible for conducting hearings and making recommendations for sanctions, which can include warnings, suspensions, or revocations of teaching certificates. PDE establishes regulations and codes of conduct that educators are required to follow. Violations of these regulations and codes can lead to disciplinary actions. Educators are expected to maintain high professional standards and ethics in their interactions with students, colleagues, and the education community.
PDE's disciplinary authority is intended to ensure the teaching profession's integrity and protect students' safety and well-being. The department works to strike a balance between holding educators accountable for misconduct and providing due process rights to those facing disciplinary actions. Educators facing disciplinary proceedings by PDE are encouraged to seek legal counsel to navigate the process effectively and protect their rights. The nationwide professional license defense team at the LLF Law Firm has helped educators nationwide defend their professional licenses against accusations of misconduct.
Certification Process for Educators in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Department of Education Division of Certification Services oversees the certification of educators within the commonwealth. Like most states, becoming a teacher in Pennsylvania requires aspiring teachers to obtain at least a Bachelor's degree. Additionally, teacher candidates must complete a teacher education program that is regionally accredited as well as accredited by the Department of Education, specifically, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or MSCHE.
Aspiring teachers must also have hands-on classroom experience of at least 13 weeks. This experience allows student teachers to gain practical experience teaching specific grade levels and subjects.
To work as a teacher in Pennsylvania, you must complete Pennsylvania teaching certification requirements, which include completing a variety of pedagogical, general skills, and subject-specific exams. This includes the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA), Praxis Core exams, and any relevant Praxis subject examples.
Teachers and teacher candidates must also pass a federal background check, a Pennsylvania state criminal records check, and a Pennsylvania child abuse clearance. In addition to being fingerprinted, students must pay several small fees for these clearances, which cost about $55.
Beginning July 1, 2020, anyone holding a Pennsylvania professional educator certification must complete continuing education every five years to maintain their certificate status as active whether they are employed or not. Certain school and system leaders serving under administrative certificates may have additional requirements.
Types of Teaching Certifications in Pennsylvania
There are two main types of teaching certifications in Pennsylvania:
- Instructional I Certificate: This is the entry-level teaching certificate. It is valid for five years and requires obtaining a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher preparation program and passing the PCAE.
- Instructional II Certificate: This is the advanced teaching certificate. It is valid for ten years and requires you to have a master's degree in education from an approved program and have three years of teaching experience.
There are also a number of specialty certifications available in Pennsylvania, such as:
- Career and Technical Instructional Certificate: This certificate is for teachers who want to teach career and technical subjects.
- Special Education Certificate: This certificate is for teachers who want to teach students with disabilities.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) Certificate: This certificate is for teachers who want to teach English to students learning English as a second language.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Teachers/Educators in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are various grounds for sanctions against teachers and educators, which may include the suspension or revocation of their teaching certificates for the following reasons:
Criminal Convictions: If an educator is convicted of certain crimes, especially those involving moral turpitude or crimes against children, it can lead to sanctions. These crimes may include but are not limited to child abuse, sexual assault, drug offenses, and more.
Child Abuse and Neglect: If a teacher is found to have committed child abuse or neglect, they can face sanctions, including the revocation of their teaching certificate.
Unprofessional Conduct: Unprofessional conduct, such as inappropriate relationships with students, using illegal drugs, or engaging in unethical behavior, can lead to sanctions.
Failure to Report Child Abuse: Pennsylvania law requires educators to report suspected child abuse. Failure to do so can result in sanctions.
Fraud or Misrepresentation: Providing false information or documents during certification or employment can lead to sanctions.
Incompetence or Inefficiency: Consistently poor performance in the classroom or a failure to meet professional standards may result in sanctions.
Violation of Ethical Standards: Educators are expected to adhere to a code of ethics and professional standards. Violations of these standards can lead to sanctions.
Substance Abuse: If a teacher is found to be abusing drugs or alcohol, and it affects their ability to perform their duties, it can result in sanctions.
Criminal History or Child Abuse Clearances: Failure to obtain or maintain required criminal background checks or child abuse clearances can lead to sanctions.
Failure to Complete Required Professional Development: Educators in Pennsylvania are required to engage in ongoing professional development. Failure to meet these requirements can lead to sanctions.
Adjudication Process for Teacher/Educator Licensing Issues in Pennsylvania
The PSPC oversees Pennsylvania's adjudication process for teacher and educator licensing issues. This process involves several steps to ensure that educators are held accountable for any alleged professional standards or conduct violations. Here is an overview of the typical adjudication process for teacher and educator licensing issues in Pennsylvania:
Complaint and Investigation:
The process usually begins with the filing of a complaint against an educator. Various parties can submit complaints, including students, parents, colleagues, or school administrators. PDE or the school district investigates the allegations, which may include interviews, document reviews, and other evidence-gathering activities.
Review by the PSPC:
If the investigation reveals evidence of misconduct or violations of professional standards, the case is referred to the PSPC, which is an independent body responsible for reviewing educator misconduct cases.
The PSPC reviews the evidence and conducts its own hearings to determine whether the educator should face sanctions, such as suspension or revocation of their teaching certificate.
Notice and Opportunity to Respond:
The PSPC typically notifies the educator of the allegations and the opportunity to respond. This may involve a formal hearing where the educator can present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. The educator has the right to legal representation during this process.
After reviewing the evidence and hearing from all parties involved, the PSPC makes a decision regarding whether to impose sanctions on the educator. Sanctions may include a warning, suspension, or revocation of the educator's teaching certificate.
If the educator disagrees with the PSPC's decision, they have the right to appeal the decision in accordance with Pennsylvania law and regulations. This may involve appealing to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education or a court.
The outcome of the adjudication process may become a matter of public record. This means that information about an educator's sanctions and the reasons for those sanctions may be accessible to the public, including potential employers.
What Types of Sanctions Do Pennsylvania Educators Face?
Educators in Pennsylvania who are found to have violated professional standards or engaged in misconduct can face various types of sanctions, which can vary depending on the severity of the misconduct, the impact on students, and other factors. Common types of sanctions that Pennsylvania educators may face include:
Warning or Reprimand: In less severe cases, educators may receive a warning or reprimand. This is a formal statement of disapproval placed on their record but does not result in suspension or revocation of their teaching certificate.
Suspension: Educators may have their teaching certificate suspended for a specified period of time. During the suspension, they are not allowed to work as educators in Pennsylvania.
Revocation of Certification: The most severe sanction is the revocation of the educator's teaching certificate. This means they lose their ability to teach in Pennsylvania, and they may be disqualified from teaching in other states as well.
Probation: PSPC may place educators on probation for a specified period, during which they must meet certain conditions or requirements to maintain their certification. Failure to comply with probationary terms can lead to further sanctions.
Fines: In some cases, the PSPC may fine educators as a disciplinary measure for their misconduct. These fines are monetary penalties.
Professional Development Requirements: Educators may be required to complete additional professional development or training as a condition of maintaining or renewing their teaching certificate.
Restrictions on Teaching: Educators may face restrictions on their teaching duties, such as not being allowed to work with certain grade levels or student populations.
Public Censure: The educator's misconduct and sanctions may be made public, potentially affecting their professional reputation and employability.
Loss of Pension Benefits: In extreme cases, educators who are convicted of certain crimes may lose their pension benefits under the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS).
If you are an educator facing disciplinary action, it is important to speak with an attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. The professional license defense team at the LLF Law Firm has helped educators like you defend their licenses and reputations against accusations of wrongdoing.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me if I am Facing Disciplinary Action?
If you are facing disciplinary action from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, hiring a lawyer can be crucial in protecting your rights and interests. Here are several ways in which a lawyer from the LLF Law Firm's professional license defense team can help you in such a situation:
Legal Advice and Guidance: Our experienced education law attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your specific case. They can explain your rights and responsibilities, as well as the potential consequences you may face. This guidance can help you make informed decisions about how to proceed.
Review of Your Case: Your lawyer can thoroughly review the allegations and evidence against you to assess the strength of the case. They can identify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the evidence and develop a strong defense strategy.
Representation During Hearings: If formal hearings or proceedings are related to your disciplinary action, your lawyer can represent you. They can prepare and present your case, cross-examine witnesses, and make legal arguments on your behalf to the appropriate authorities.
Negotiating Settlements: In some cases, negotiating a settlement with the PDE may be in your best interest. Your attorney can help you assess the terms of any proposed settlement and negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome.
Appeals: If you disagree with the outcome of the disciplinary process, your lawyer can assist you in filing appeals, if applicable. They can represent you in appellate proceedings and work to have decisions reviewed or overturned.
Protecting Your Professional Reputation: Education professionals often rely on their professional reputation. Your attorney can work to protect your reputation and minimize the public impact of the disciplinary action, if possible.
Understanding Complex Legal Procedures: The disciplinary process involving educators in Pennsylvania can be complex and involve various legal procedures. An LLF Law Firm lawyer experienced in education law can navigate these procedures effectively on your behalf.
Ensuring Due Process: Your attorney will ensure that your due process rights are upheld throughout the disciplinary process. This includes ensuring the PSPC notifies you of the allegations, allows you to respond, and gives you a fair and impartial hearing.
Privacy Concerns: Your lawyer can help you address any privacy concerns that may arise during the disciplinary process, especially if the allegations become public.
Advice on Future Career Steps: Depending on the outcome of your disciplinary action, your attorney can provide guidance on your options for continuing your career in education, including any steps you may need to take to regain your teaching certificate.
When facing disciplinary action from the PDE or any other educational authority, it's crucial to consult with an attorney who specializes in education law. The professional license defense team at the LLF Law Firm has the knowledge and experience to navigate the specific legal challenges you may encounter and work to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania Teacher/Educator License Defense Attorney
You worked hard to become an educator. Don't let someone's accusation of professional misconduct threaten your certification and the career you worked so hard for. Contact the professional license defense team at the LLF Law Firm today. Our team has assisted educators like you in Pennsylvania and across the country in defending their certifications. Contact the LLF Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 or use our online form to discuss your case.