Facing disciplinary action from your West Virginia school district is incredibly concerning. You have worked so hard, going through years of training and significant financial costs to become a teacher. Being a teacher is a difficult job. Often, your work isn't fully appreciated by students or parents even when you spent your own money on classroom supplies and spent way more time than 9 to 5 on lesson plans, grading homework, and more.
When you have put so much time, money, and effort into your job as a teacher, it can be shocking to hear the school district is taking disciplinary action against you and maybe even going after your teaching license. As a teacher, you are experienced in handling unexpected situations under stress, but the possibility of disciplinary action is a whole new level of concern. You may be terrified, overwhelmed, or completely confused about how to defend yourself and your license.
Disciplinary actions against teachers are taken particularly seriously because the community has trusted you to have a close relationship with their children, to educate them, care for them, and keep them safe as if they were your own. You are a model citizen and even have elevated status as a leader of your community, shaping children's futures. When teachers like you face allegations, people are almost always willing to assume that you have done wrong, even if this means completely ignoring your side of the story.
When facing scrutiny from your community and, even more seriously, from the school district, you need the help of a qualified teaching license defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm. You cannot face this fight alone or just any attorney inexperienced in teaching license defense. The school district bringing action against you has a whole host of resources available to fight this battle, and you need a strong team behind you. Our team understands the sacrifices you have made to get where you are and appreciates your commitment to every child who passes through your classroom. Let the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team help you, call 888.535.3686 or contact us online.
West Virginia Depart of Education License Proceedings
The West Virginia Department of Education oversees everything related to teaching in the state. Within the West Virginia Department of Education is the Office of Certification; the role of this office is to approve all permits, authorizations, and certifications for licensure for educators who want to work in West Virginia's public schools. You may remember interacting with this agency while obtaining your teaching license.
The West Virginia Department of Education has a publicly available database that records all public employee license actions since the year 2000. The database lists the employee, their birth year, their certification (e.g., teacher, librarian, counselor, etc.), the date of the action, the last country in which they worked, and the action taken against them (revocation, suspension, permanent revocation, etc.). Each entry contains a brief summary of the case details. This section will also explain if the license was voluntarily revoked, a settlement was reached, or other pertinent information.
When it comes to suspending or revoking your license, the State Superintendent holds that authority. Disciplinary actions may be presented before the Professional Practice Panel, the Licensure Appeal Panel of the West Virginia Commission for Professional Teacher Standards, or another body as designated by the State Superintendent.
The Professional Practice Panel has seven members; they review all contested teaching license revocation cases referred to by the State Superintendent. The Licensure Appeal Panel also has seven members; this panel makes recommendations to the State Superintendent for the revocation and/or suspension of teaching licenses based on findings of investigations conducted by the West Virginia Department of Education. Hearings conducted in front of either of the panels will follow the rules and procedures outlined in Policy 1340 (Rules of Procedure for Administrative Hearings and Appeals).
West Virginia Education Laws
The laws governing education in West Virginia cover everything relating to teacher training, certification, and licensing, specifically, the grounds for revocation or suspension of teaching licenses.
The Disciplinary Process
There are two ways the disciplinary process generally works. First, the State Superintendent has the authority to automatically revoke a teaching license for serious causes outlined in the West Virginia Code at §18A-3-6(b) and §18A-4-8(e)(j)(4)(C). In this instance, your option is to immediately appeal, which is discussed below. The second process involves a complaint being filed, a hearing being held, and a final determination. That process generally goes like this:
There are many ways misconduct allegations can be made against you. Anyone can notify your school or school district about alleged misconduct, including students, parents, community members, or your colleagues. Ultimately, any complaints brought to the school will be brought to the relevant authority; this will either be a charter public school administrator, public school principal, or county superintendent. Once one of these authorities receives a report against you, they are obligated by law to report all the facts and evidence related to this report to the State Superintendent and the appropriate teacher preparation institution.
Notice and Investigation
Once a complaint is received alleging actions against you that could be grounds for revocation or suspension of a teaching license, the State Superintendent will send you a Notice of Investigation. The notice will include a summary of the information within the complaint, any options for resolution, and the potential outcomes you may face if the information in the complaint is substantiated.
One thing to note is that if you were planning to leave your job in response to this investigation and are searching for a new job, you are legally required to disclose this investigation to prospective employers when applying.
Once an investigation is completed, the Professional Practice Panel or Licensure Appeal Panel will convene to hear and recommend to the State Superintendent how to either maintain, suspend, or revoke your license. You will have ten days' notice of the hearing. All hearings are automatically open to the public, but you have the right to request that your hearing be closed. Attending your hearing and arriving on time is crucial; if you fail to attend, you are confessing to the allegations against you by default.
Having your Lento Law Firm teaching license defense attorney with you at the hearing is nonnegotiable. The hearing functions like a court proceeding, and going in without your counsel could have devastating consequences. Teaching license hearings have specific rules and procedures that your attorney is well-versed in. These rules include what evidence can be presented and how and what the burden of proof is, which differs based on the type of allegation against you.
A determination may be made at the hearing unless a post-hearing written argument is requested. Regardless of whether the determination is announced orally at the end of your hearing, it will be issued to you in writing, accompanied by findings of fact, conclusions of law, and the appropriate resolution. Within 30 days after the hearing, the State Superintendent will decide whether to uphold, suspend, or temporarily or permanently revoke your teaching license.
You may appeal the State Superintendent's decision to the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals within 30 days of the decision being issued. Your Lento Law Firm teaching license defense attorney can file your appeal and help you through the appeals process. You must file this appeal within 30 days, so if you are retaining an attorney for the first time at this stage, you cannot afford to wait.
Unless your teaching license has been permanently revoked, you are eligible for license reinstatement once your suspension or revocation period is completed and any conditions for reinstatement imposed by the State Superintendent have been met. The reinstatement process is similar to the process you went through when you originally applied for your teaching license.
First, you will fill out an application for reinstatement. The West Virginia Board of Education Office of Certification will review this application like you did with your initial license. This means, once again, you will need to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. Once this step is complete, the West Virginia Board of Education will conduct an investigation to determine whether you have satisfied all the requirements for reinstatement and whether you can demonstrate a record of rehabilitation that supports that you possess the integrity, moral character, and competence to resume your responsibilities as a teacher.
If the Department of Education determines you have met all the requirements for reinstatement, the State Superintendent may restore your teaching license without further action. If the Department of Education has further questions about whether you have fulfilled all your requirements for reinstatement, it will submit a written report to the Professional Practice Panel, and a hearing will be scheduled. After the hearing has been conducted, the Professional Practice Panel will recommend to the State Superintendent whether your license should be reinstated and if there will be any restrictions on your license if it is reinstated. A hearing means there is doubt as to whether your license should be reinstated, and your battle isn't over. As you already likely know by now, it would be unwise to go into this fight without your counsel from the Lento Law Firm.
Allegations That Put a West Virginia Teaching License at Risk
Under W. Va. Code §18A-3-6, the State Superintendent can revoke, suspend, or impose limitations on a teaching license at least ten days after providing the Notice of Investigation and upon obtaining proper evidence for various offenses. Some of the offenses that may be grounds for disciplinary action and potential license revocation include:
- Conviction of a felony or guilty plea
- A plea of no contest to a felony charge
- ·Conviction, guilty plea, or plea of no contest to any charge involving sexual with a minor or student
- Using fraudulent, unapproved, or insufficient credit to obtain your teaching license
- Committed any act of cruelty to a child or an act of child endangerment
- Solicited, encouraged, engaged in, or consummated an inappropriate relationship with any student, minor, or individual engaged in grooming a student or minor
Additional acts that can lead to disciplinary action include:
- Misappropriation of school funds
- Acts related to secure mandatory testing
- Attempting to compromise the outcome of athletic competitions
- Acts involving drugs or alcohol
Areas We Serve
The Lento Law Firm has successfully defended teaching licenses throughout West Virginia. Our attorneys have worked on cases brought in some of the largest school districts in the state, including Kanawha County, Berkeley County, and Wood County school districts. No matter which West Virginia public, charter, or private school you work for, we can represent you in any disciplinary action against you.
Professional License Defense Team for West Virginia Teachers
No matter what type of allegation has been brought against you, the Lento Law Firm's teaching license defense attorneys are here to fight for you. We understand the time, effort, and money you put into obtaining your teaching license and educating West Virginia students every day. You cannot afford to lose your license, livelihood, and reputation. Let us help you in every aspect of your case, from gathering evidence to clearly and effectively presenting your case at disciplinary hearings. To retain The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team, call 888.535.3685 or contact us online today.