Most teachers work long hours without the recognition and appreciation they deserve. To make matters worse, many teachers face challenges and licensing reviews in Utah. If you are a teacher facing disciplinary action in Utah, you need a strong and effective defense that will provide the best outcome possible. The Lento Law Firm Team understands professional licensing and education law and understands how difficult it can be to defend yourself against accusations of misconduct.
If you are accused of misconduct, you must fight to clear your name. If your license is suspended or revoked, the damage to your reputation may follow you for the remainder of your life. No one accused of serious misconduct can afford to let the accusations sit and become part of a disciplinary record. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your details online, and we will contact you.
Educators include teachers, administrators, and others who hold and must defend a certification or license. Educators most often face disciplinary actions based on the following accusations:
- Accusations of an inappropriate romantic or sexual relationship with a student or child.
- Accusations of drug or alcohol abuse.
- Accusations of an assault or harm to a student.
- Other accusations of unethical conduct.
Disciplinary Actions by Board of Education
The Utah State Board of Education is responsible for all licensing issues involving teachers in Utah. The Board has wide latitude to determine the appropriate discipline for an offense, except for some more serious charges that involve automatic revocation of a teaching license. If a license is not automatically revoked, the Utah Board of Education may:
- Still choose to revoke the educator's license.
- Suspend the educator's license.
- Restrict a license or deny the renewal of a license.
- Warn or reprimand the educator.
- Place conditions upon the license to which the educator must comply.
- Direct UPPAC to further investigate or gather information.
- Take other action the State Board finds to be appropriate for and consistent with the educator's behavior.
Conduct Which May Lead to Discipline
Under Utah law, an educator may not engage in the following prohibited conduct:
- Commit and be convicted of a serious crime or a felony.
- Commit a less serious crime, known as a misdemeanor, if the misdemeanor is the type of crime that affects the educator's ability to be a teacher or care for students.
- Plead guilty or be convicted of a felony sexual crime or engage in conduct that would constitute a felony sexual crime.
- Harass or participate in harassment of a fellow teacher, staff member or student. Harassment may be sexual, physical, or emotional in nature.
- Engage in conduct that is inappropriate with a student, whether or not the student is a minor. It is also prohibited conduct to engage in inappropriate conduct with a colleague or with a member of the community.
- Have or seek any type of relationship with a student, whether or not the student is a minor. It is immaterial whether the relationship is consummated if the educator sought the relationship. It does not change the prohibited nature of the conduct if the student is not a minor—it is still prohibited conduct.
- Accept any type of inappropriate gift from a student or give a student any type of intimate or inappropriate gift.
- Commit or be convicted of a crime involving a child, including abuse, cruelty, or exploitation.
- Engage in physical hitting, corporal punishment, excessive force, or physical restraint unless it is allowed under the standards in Section 53G-8-302.
- Give or provide alcohol or drugs to a student or allow a student to use or purchase alcohol or drugs.
- Attend a school event while using drugs or alcohol or having drugs or alcohol in your possession.
- Attend a school event as an educator after taking more than the prescribed dose of a prescription medication.
- Have or deal an illegal drug or be convicted of any drug crime.
- Be convicted of driving under the influence, public intoxication, or other alcohol-related offense.
- Use or attempt to use an LEA computer or information system to access information that is illicit, such as pornography, or harmful to young people.
- Possess pornographic or indecent material at school or use school equipment to view or share pornography.
- Any use or sharing of child pornography.
- Expose students to inappropriate material, given the age and maturity of the students.
- Violate firearm possession laws on school property or allow a student to have a weapon.
- Interfere with the constitutional or civil rights of another or discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or any other protected category.
- Collect data without authorization or violate student confidentiality.
- Engage in or tolerate cheating or academic dishonesty.
Sexual Charge, Conviction, or Misconduct as a Bar to Teaching License
Utah law makes a person not eligible to hold a teaching license in Utah if that person pled guilty, was convicted, or engaged in:
- a felony of a sexual nature.
- a sexual offense against a minor child.
- sexual relations or conduct with a minor.
- sexual relations with a student who was not a minor but was an enrolled student where the educator was employed or was participating in an activity.
- conduct that amounts to a sexual felony if the educator admits to the conduct.
These sections will prevent an initial licensing of the individual and will result in the revocation of a teaching license if the conduct or charges happen after a license is granted. It is important to note that this section does not merely prevent the licensure of individuals but employment or even volunteering in the school. Any individual ineligible for licensure under this section may not be otherwise employed in a public school and may not volunteer in the public schools.
If the State Board denies licensure under this section, they must immediately notify the applicant of the denial and a right for a hearing before the UPPAC. The applicant may appeal the notice within 30 days of receipt and must request a hearing to get one. At this hearing, the applicant will be able to review and respond to all evidence upon which the Board based the denial.
Educator Reporting of Arrests, Citations, Charges, and Convictions
An educator must report an arrest within 48 hours or as soon as possible to the educator's district superintendent for the following charges:
- an alleged sex offense.
- an alleged drug-related offense.
- an alleged alcohol-related offense.
- any violation of or charge under offenses against a person.
- any violation or charge involving a property crime.
- any violation or charge of domestic violence.
- any other violation or charge under federal law or any state law comparable to the above descriptions.
An educator shall tell or report to the LEA or Executive Secretary that he has been charged, convicted, or has pled to any of the above offenses within 48 hours, or if this is not possible, as soon as possible. The superintendent of the school should report any pertinent information to the Superintendent of Schools within 48 hours. An educator shall report for work following an arrest unless directed not to report for work by the employer.
Stages of Hearing and Appeal
Under Utah law, the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC) will assist and advise the State Board on the licensing of educators and teachers. It is UPPAC who investigates allegations against educators in Utah and conducts hearings.
Stage One – UPPAC Investigation: Upon notice that an educator committed a violation, the State Board will direct UPPAC to investigate. UPPAC will investigate whether the educator is unfit for duty because the educator exhibited behavior that is immoral, unprofessional, incompetent, or otherwise violates standards of ethical conduct, performance, or professional competence.
If the State Board determines an allegation or decision does not evidence an educator's unfitness for duty, the State Board may dismiss the allegation or decision without an investigation or hearing.
Stage Two – UPPAC Hearing: UPPAC will then hold a hearing to allow the educator to respond to the allegations. Before the State Board takes any action against the teaching license of an educator, the Board must see that the educator has an opportunity for a UPPAC hearing. The UPPAC will conduct and manage the hearing, although it may also be conducted by a local school board. UPPAC will appoint a hearing officer or panel to conduct the hearing and make recommendations concerning findings. An educator charged with misconduct may ask that UPPAC provide a panel of its members to serve as fact finders in a hearing. The hearing officer or panel will decide the issues based on a preponderance of the evidence standard. In other words, it is the school system that bears the burden of proving the allegations.
Stage Three – Recommendation to the State Board: After the investigation and the opportunity for a hearing, UPPAC will make findings to the State Board and make a recommendation for State Board action.
Stage Four—Decision of State Board. After UPPAC makes its findings to the State Board and makes its recommendation, the State Board decides on a course of action or discipline. As stated earlier, the State Board may dismiss the charges, or they may take actions from lower-level discipline up to and including revocation of the teaching license of the accused.
Stage Five—Appeal: A party dissatisfied with the Board's decision may proceed to Court.
Expedited Hearing Process
UPPAC advises educators that it will provide an Expedited Hearing Process if the educator has been charged with a minor crime or when allegations are likely to result in a warning or other more minor discipline. An educator may ask for the Expedited Process, or UPPAC may assign the case to the Expedited Process. They do warn, however, that if the educator is not present for the hearing, they will open an investigation.
UPPAC advises that the Expedited Process takes 2-4 months to complete, while the regular process takes 6 months to a year. To participate in the Expedited Process, UPPAC asks for the following:
- A written statement of the events at issue.
- The Police Report, if any.
- The Court Docket, if any.
- Any other documents the educator wishes to present.
While an Expedited Process of this type may be a good idea for the educator, it is not without risk. An educator should still have counsel, such as the Lento Law Firm, and should use care in their statements and admissions. If you are scheduled for an Expedited Hearing, call the Lento Law Firm as soon as you can. At the end of the Expedited Process, UPPAC will issue a decision or open an investigation.
An educator is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the educator's defense against charges of misconduct if:
- The action is brought for behavior that occurred during the performance of the educator's duties within the scope of employment.
- The charges are dismissed or result in findings favorable to the educator.
This does not require the educator to prevail on all issues, but to present a defense that results in a favorable outcome. The Utah rules also allow for the recovery of additional fees incurred to recover fees.
The Lento Law Firm Represents Teachers Throughout Utah
The Lento Law Firm represents teachers in Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, St. George, or any other city or area in Utah. We can help whether you are employed with a local school district or with a private or charter school. We understand that the culture of a community will be reflected in schools and educational decisions of local administrators. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will lead the defense of your license, negotiating with the State and otherwise seeking the best possible resolution to your case. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or submit your details online, and we will contact you.