Rhode Island is home to 132,000 students in 271 schools within 34 school districts. A total of 9,743 teachers provide instruction to students, a ratio of roughly one teacher for every 14 students — slightly better than the national average of 1 teacher for every 16 students. Teachers provide a valuable service, helping them advance through the school system into college and graduate schools so they can be productive adults in whatever career they choose to pursue. It takes heart and dedication to obtain the education and necessary training and become certified through the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).
But when someone makes a complaint to RIDE or a college or university's disciplinary committee about an educator's misconduct, it sets in motion a series of events that could damage the teacher's reputation, strip them of their license, and ruin their chances of working in their profession of choice.
If someone has accused you of professional wrongdoing, you must fight to keep your certification and future. Rhode Island law allows you to obtain legal representation and defend yourself. Bring the big dogs. Contact the nationwide Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or through our online form, and let us fight for you.
Legal Powers the Rhode Island Department of Education Has to Discipline You
The Rhode Island Department of Education has the right to discipline teachers. Under Rhode Island law, the RIDE is responsible for the "supervision, control and management of all public schools" in the state. This includes the authority to establish standards of conduct for teachers and to take disciplinary action against teachers who violate those standards. The specific disciplinary actions that the RIDE can take against teachers are outlined in the Rhode Island Teacher Tenure Law. These actions include:
The RIDE can only take disciplinary action against a teacher after following a fair and impartial hearing process. The teacher has the right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing and to present evidence in their defense.
In addition to the RIDE, individual school districts in Rhode Island also have the authority to discipline teachers. However, the Rhode Island Teacher Tenure Law limits the school district's disciplinary authority. The school district cannot take any disciplinary action against a teacher that is more severe than the action that the RIDE could take.
If you are a teacher in Rhode Island and you are facing disciplinary action, speak with an experienced professional license defense lawyer at Lento Law Firm who can help you understand your rights and options.
Certification Process for Educators in Rhode Island
To become a certified teacher in Rhode Island, you must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with at least 30 credits in education coursework. You must complete a teacher preparation program approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education. The program must include at least 60 hours of field experience and 12 weeks of student teaching. The teacher preparation program must include coursework in the following areas:
- Educational psychology
- Curriculum and instruction
- Teaching methods
- Classroom management
- Professional ethics
You must pass the required Praxis exams and apply for certification through the RIDE website. The RIDE will review your application and determine if you meet the requirements for certification. If you are approved, you will be issued a teaching certificate.
In addition to the initial certification requirements, Rhode Island educators must participate in ongoing professional development activities. These activities can include workshops, conferences, and online courses. The amount of professional development required varies depending on the educator's certification level and the school district where they work. The amount of professional development required of educators in Rhode Island is constantly evolving. The RIDE is constantly updating its requirements to ensure that educators have the skills and knowledge they need to be effective in the classroom.
Types of Teaching Certifications in Rhode Island
There are three types of teaching certificates in Rhode Island:
- Initial Certificate: This certificate is issued to new educators who complete a bachelor's degree education program and meet the experience and examination requirements. It is valid for three years.
- Professional Certificate: This certificate is the next level in the three-tiered certification structure. It is obtained if you successfully practice on an assessment while holding the Initial Certificate. This certificate is valid for five years.
- Advanced Certificate: This certificate may be obtained through displaying highly effective experience based on evaluation ratings while holding the Professional Certificate. It is valid for seven years.
There are two levels of certificates:
- Independent Certification Area: This represents an area of certification that can be achieved without requiring certification in another area. Examples include Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle Grades Education, Secondary Education, and All Grades Education.
- Dependent Certification Area: This represents an area of certification that can only be achieved if you attain certification in another area as well. Examples include Adaptive Physical Education, English as a Second Language, Middle Grades Extension, and Special Education.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Teachers/Educators in Rhode Island
Any behavior that is considered to be unbecoming of a professional educator or that is harmful to students, or the school community can be grounds for disciplinary action.
- Sexual misconduct: This includes any sexual contact or behavior with a student, even if the student is over the age of consent.
- Child abuse or neglect: This includes any intentional or negligent act that causes harm to a child.
- Willful neglect of duties: This includes any intentional failure to fulfill the educator's job duties, such as failing to attend class or failing to grade assignments.
- Gross insubordination: This includes any intentional disobedience of the orders of a supervisor, such as refusing to follow a school policy or refusing to teach a particular subject.
- Conviction of a crime: This includes any crime that is relevant to the educator's job duties, such as a crime involving children or a crime involving dishonesty.
- Improper use of drugs or alcohol: This includes using drugs or alcohol on school grounds or while on duty.
- Harassment or discrimination: This includes any behavior that is intended to intimidate, threaten, or harm another person based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
- Falsifying records: This includes falsifying student records, attendance records, or other school records.
- Improper financial dealings: This includes misusing school funds or accepting gifts from students or parents.
If you are an educator in Rhode Island and you are facing allegations of misconduct, contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. We can build a strong case in your defense and get you the best outcome possible in your case.
Adjudication Process for Teacher/Educator Licensing Issues in Rhode Island
The adjudication process for teacher/educator licensing issues in Rhode Island is as follows:
Complaint: The RIDE receives a complaint against a teacher or educator. The complaint can be filed by anyone, including a student, parent, staff member, or community member. The complaint must be in writing and must allege that the educator has engaged in misconduct that is grounds for disciplinary action.
Investigation: The RIDE will investigate the complaint by gathering information from the educator, the complainant, and any other relevant witnesses. The RIDE may also conduct interviews, review documents, and visit the school where the alleged misconduct occurred.
Notice of Allegations: If the investigation finds that the allegations are credible, the RIDE will issue a Notice of Allegations to the educator. The Notice of Allegations will list the specific allegations against the educator and will inform the educator of their right to a hearing.
Response to Notice of Allegations: The educator has 30 days to respond to the Notice of Allegations. The response may admit or deny the allegations, or it may provide an explanation of the educator's conduct.
Hearing: The RIDE may hold a hearing to resolve the matter. The hearing will be conducted by an impartial hearing officer. The educator has the right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. The hearing will be open to the public unless the hearing officer determines that there is a compelling reason to close the hearing.
Decision: The hearing officer will issue a decision after the hearing. The decision will either dismiss the complaint or find that the educator has engaged in misconduct. If the hearing officer finds that the educator has engaged in misconduct, the decision will recommend sanctions.
Appeal: The educator may appeal the decision of the hearing officer to the RIDE. The RIDE will review the decision and issue a final decision.
What Types of Sanctions Do Rhode Island Educators Face?
The possible sanctions that educators in Rhode Island face depend on the severity of the offense. The following are some of the possible sanctions:
- Reprimand: This is a formal warning that is placed in the educator's file.
- Suspension: This means that the educator is temporarily removed from their job, but they still receive their pay.
- Termination: This means that the educator is fired from their job.
- License revocation: This means that the educator is no longer allowed to teach in Rhode Island.
- Criminal charges: In some cases, educators may face criminal charges for their actions, such as child abuse or sexual misconduct.
The specific sanctions that are imposed will be determined by the Rhode Island Department of Education, the school district, or the court system, depending on the circumstances. Educators in Rhode Island have the right to due process, which means that they have the right to a fair hearing before any sanctions are imposed. They also have the right to appeal any sanctions that are imposed.
Don't let RIDE sanction you and threaten the certifications you worked so hard for. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team today.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me if I am Facing Disciplinary Action by RIDE?
Our attorney can help you in a number of ways if you are an educator in Rhode Island accused of misconduct and facing disciplinary action by RIDE. Here are some of the ways we can help:
- Advise you of your rights: We will advise you of your rights under the law and the procedures that will be followed during the disciplinary process.
- Help you gather evidence: Our attorney can help you gather evidence that supports your side of the story, such as witness statements, documents, or photographs.
- Prepare a written response: A member of our Professional License Defense Team can help you prepare a written response to the allegations against you. This is your chance to explain your side of the story and present any evidence that supports your claims.
- Represent you at the hearing: If the RIDE decides to hold a hearing, an attorney from the Lento Law Firm can represent you at the hearing and advocate on your behalf.
- Appeal the decision: If the hearing officer finds that you have engaged in misconduct, your Professional License Defense Team from Lento Law Firm can help you appeal the decision to the RIDE.
In addition to the specific tasks mentioned above, our attorney can also provide you with emotional support and guidance during this difficult time. They can help you understand the process and make sure that your rights are protected.
If you are an educator in Rhode Island who has been accused of misconduct, it is important to contact an attorney from Lento Law Firm as soon as possible. The sooner you get legal representation, the sooner you can start defending your professional license and your career.
Why You Need a Rhode Island Teacher/Educator License Defense Attorney
You worked hard to obtain the education, training, and certifications necessary to become a teacher/educator in Rhode Island. Don't let a complaint threaten your career and tarnish your future. Call the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm today. The team has assisted teachers like you in Rhode Island and across the country in defending their certifications. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 or use our online form to discuss your case.