The South Carolina Department of Education employs about 51,000 teachers in 1,167 public schools across 79 school districts, where they serve some 751,660 students. An additional 2,000 work at the college or university level. These educators provide a valuable service, preparing elementary and middle school students for high school, high school students for college or job pursuits, and college students for their future careers. South Carolina teachers spend years honing their education and talents, gaining on-the-job training, and testing to obtain the credentials needed to teach in schools and universities across the state.
When someone makes an accusation of misconduct about a licensed or certified teacher, their credentials and career are in jeopardy. The South Carolina Department of Education plays a pivotal role in certifying teachers as well as disciplining them. So does the college or university for higher education educators. When accusations of professional misconduct arise, a teaching professional and their career are at the mercy of these large governing bodies.
If your South Carolina teaching license or certification is in jeopardy due to a complaint, you must defend your livelihood and reputation. Don't enter into this fight alone. You need the nationwide Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. Contact us today at 888-535-3686 or through our online form, and let us build a strong case in your defense.
Certification Process for Educators in South Carolina
To become a certified teacher in South Carolina, aspiring teachers need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. This degree should be in the subject area or grade level you plan to teach. Candidates also need to complete a teacher education program that is approved by the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE). This program typically includes coursework, field experiences, and student teaching, and is typically included in the bachelor's curriculum. South Carolina also requires prospective teachers to pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) tests. In addition to the Core tests, you may also need to pass subject-specific Praxis II exams relevant to your teaching area.
Before you can be certified, you will need to undergo a criminal background check, including fingerprinting, and submit an application for initial teacher certification to the SCDE. This may include transcripts, test scores, and other required documentation. South Carolina teachers are typically required to engage in ongoing professional development to maintain their certification.
The Palmetto State uses a tiered license structure for educators. Those who meet the minimum requirements mentioned above are eligible for the Initial Educator Certificates. Candidates must complete continuing education, earn satisfactory teacher evaluations, and pass a pedagogical knowledge assessment (generally the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching) to advance the license to a Professional Certificate.
Types of Teaching Certifications in South Carolina
Under the authorization of the South Carolina State Board of Education, the SCDE issues several types of educator certificates. Here are a few:
Initial Certificate: This is the standard teaching certificate issued to educators who meet the state's requirements for licensure. It typically requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, completion of a teacher preparation program, and passing scores on required exams. These certificates are valid for three years. After the validity of the initial certificate runs out, an educator who does not meet the requirements to advance to a renewable Professional Certificate must reapply for a new Initial Certificate.
Professional Certificate: This certificate is a standard educator credential valid for five years and may be renewed by meeting continued professional learning requirements set forth by the State Board of Education.
Limited Professional Certificate: This certificate provides a certificate advancement option for an educator with a South Carolina Initial Certificate employed as an educator in eligible, non-regulated educational entities in the state, such as independent schools. These certificates may be renewed by meeting continued professional learning requirements.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) Certification: Educators who want to teach career and technical education subjects may pursue CTE certification, which requires specialized training and coursework in their chosen field. Completing this five-year certification process qualifies educators for advancement to a renewable Professional Certificate.
Alternative Route Certification: South Carolina offers alternative certification pathways for individuals with a bachelor's degree in a field other than education. These programs often involve coursework and teaching experience to prepare candidates for the classroom. These certificates may be renewed annually for a defined period as allowed by state and federal law and with continued employment in a state public school and successful progress toward completion of the specific program. After completing all the Alternative Route Certification requirements, the educator is eligible for advancement to a renewable Professional Certification.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Teachers/Educators in South Carolina
The South Carolina Board of Education oversees disciplinary measures for complaints made against a teacher and may sanction a teacher for various reasons, typically related to misconduct or violations of professional standards. Here are some common reasons why the board might impose sanctions on a teacher:
Unprofessional Conduct: Engaging in unprofessional or unethical behavior, such as using inappropriate language or displaying disrespectful behavior toward students, colleagues, or parents.
Insubordination: Refusing to follow school policies, district guidelines, or administrative directives without reasonable cause.
Child Abuse or Neglect: Any form of child abuse or neglect, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or failure to report such incidents when required by law.
Criminal Activity: Conviction of a crime that could reasonably affect the teacher's ability to perform their duties, especially if it involves a child or the school environment.
Violations of District Policies: Violating the policies and regulations of the school district, including attendance, grading, and assessment procedures.
Unsatisfactory Performance: Consistently poor performance in teaching, as measured by evaluations or student performance data.
Misuse of Funds: Misappropriation of school funds or resources for personal gain.
Inappropriate Relationships: Engaging in inappropriate relationships with students, which may include romantic or sexual relationships, or crossing boundaries that compromise the teacher-student relationship.
Failure to Maintain Certification: Failure to renew or maintain appropriate teaching credentials or certifications.
Failure to Report: Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect, which is mandatory for educators in many states, including South Carolina.
Discrimination or Harassment: Engaging in discriminatory or harassing behavior based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other protected characteristics.
Adjudication Process for Teachers/Educators Facing Licensing Issues in South Carolina
The adjudication process for teachers facing licensing issues in South Carolina typically involves several steps. The specific procedures and timelines may vary depending on the nature of the allegations and the policies of the South Carolina Department of Education or the relevant licensing authority. Here is an overview of South Carolina's disciplinary process:
Complaint or Allegation: The process typically begins when a complaint or allegation is made against a teacher. This complaint can come from various sources, including parents, students, colleagues, or administrators. The complaint may involve issues such as misconduct, unprofessional behavior, or violations of education laws and regulations.
Investigation: Once a complaint is received, the South Carolina Department of Education or the appropriate licensing authority initiates an investigation. This investigation may involve collecting evidence, interviewing relevant parties, and reviewing documents related to the case.
Notification: If the investigation finds evidence of misconduct or violations, the teacher is typically notified of the allegations against them. They may receive a formal notice outlining the charges and the evidence supporting those charges.
Response: The board allows the teacher to respond to the allegations. They may be required to submit a written response, attend a hearing, or meet with an investigator to provide their side of the story and present any evidence or witnesses in their defense.
Adjudication Hearing: In some cases, a panel or board of education professionals may hold an adjudication hearing to review the evidence, hear witness testimony, and make a determination regarding the teacher's licensing status.
Decision: After the adjudication hearing or the completion of the investigation, the panel will make a decision regarding the teacher's licensing status. The decision may include actions such as reprimand, probation, suspension, or revocation of the teaching license, depending on the severity of the misconduct and other relevant factors.
Appeal: Teachers who are dissatisfied with the decision typically have the right to appeal the outcome. The appeals process may vary but often involves filing an appeal with a higher-level education authority or a court, depending on the circumstances.
Notification of the Decision: The board informs the teacher of the final decision, including any sanctions imposed or the resolution of the case.
What Types of Sanctions Do South Carolina Educators Face?
South Carolina teachers who engage in professional wrongdoing can face a range of sanctions and consequences, depending on the nature and severity of their misconduct. Here are some of the types of sanctions that South Carolina educators may face:
Reprimand: A reprimand is a formal written warning or censure issued to the teacher for their misconduct. It is a less severe sanction and serves as a formal acknowledgment of the wrongdoing.
Probation: The board may place teachers on probation, which means they can continue teaching under specific conditions or restrictions. These conditions may include additional training, supervision, or monitoring of their conduct.
Suspension: Suspension involves temporarily revoking the teacher's teaching license for a specified period. During the suspension, the teacher is not permitted to teach or engage in any educational activities.
Revocation: The most severe sanction is the revocation of a teacher's teaching license. This means the teacher loses their eligibility to teach in South Carolina permanently or for a specified period. The board typically reserves revocation for serious or repeated misconduct.
Fines: Teachers may be required to pay fines as part of their sanctions, especially if their misconduct has financial implications for the school district or students.
Professional Development: Teachers may be required to complete additional professional development or training courses to address the issues related to their misconduct. This could include ethics training, classroom management courses, or other relevant programs.
Restitution: In cases where a teacher's misconduct resulted in financial harm to students or the school district, the board may require the teacher to make restitution to compensate for the losses.
Loss of Certification: Teachers may lose their certification or endorsement in a particular subject or area if their misconduct is directly related to that area of expertise.
Loss of Employment: In addition to the sanctions imposed by the licensing authority, a teacher may also face employment-related consequences, including suspension or termination by their school district or employer.
Legal Action: In cases involving criminal misconduct, teachers may face criminal charges, which could lead to fines, probation, or incarceration.
How Can a Professional License Defense Lawyer Help Me if I am Facing Disciplinary Action?
If you are an educator facing disciplinary action, hiring a lawyer with experience in defending professional licensees can be invaluable in navigating the process and protecting your rights and interests. They can explain the relevant laws, regulations, and policies that apply to your situation. Your lawyer is your advocate, representing your interests during meetings, negotiations, and hearings. Your lawyer can work with you to develop a strategic defense plan. This may involve determining whether to challenge the allegations, negotiate a settlement, or prepare for a disciplinary hearing. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a resolution with the school district or the licensing authority. Your lawyer can engage in negotiations to seek a favorable outcome, such as a reduced sanction or a settlement that allows you to continue teaching.
If your case proceeds to a formal disciplinary hearing, your professional license attorney can represent you during the proceedings. They can question witnesses, present evidence, and make legal arguments on your behalf. If you receive an adverse decision, your lawyer can help you navigate the appeals process. They can review the decision for legal errors and file an appeal if appropriate.
Teachers facing disciplinary action often have concerns about the impact on their professional reputation. Your lawyer can work to protect your reputation and minimize the public fallout from the disciplinary action and can help ensure that your personal information and disciplinary proceedings are handled with the appropriate level of privacy and confidentiality.
Why You Need a South Carolina Teacher/Educator License Defense Attorney from Lento Law Firm
If you face allegations of professional wrongdoing, you need a lawyer with experience representing professional educators. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help ensure that the disciplinary process complies with due process rights, including the right to notice, a fair hearing, and the right to present a defense. We will build a strong case in your defense and protect your credentials, career, and reputation. Don't fight these allegations alone. Our team has assisted educators like you in South Carolina and nationwide in defending their licenses and certifications. Contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at (888) 535-3686 or use our online form to discuss your case.