Concerns for Future Educators

Teaching is one of the noblest professions you can undertake – and the rewards of inspiring and molding the minds of future generations of students should not be underestimated. But becoming an educator requires hard work and dedication. Public school teachers, whether they teach kindergarten or twelfth grade, are required to have at least a bachelor's degree when they start. In most states, they are will also need to take an exam to receive a state-issued teaching license or certificate. The requirements for teaching in a private institution may not always be quite as strict as those for public schools – but private schools still expect educators to have a degree, become accredited by their organization of choice, and, overall, be qualified to teach and successfully manage a busy classroom.

Teachers who would like to move up the ladder in their school district – or, perhaps, pursue a job in school administration – may also benefit from pursuing a graduate degree. Whether your career goals involve spending the bulk of your teaching years in a second-grade classroom or eventually becoming the superintendent of your school district, becoming a qualified educator requires significant investment. You are looking at a lot of time – as well as a good deal of money – to get the degrees and licensure you need to succeed.

As teaching is a career where you will be working closely with children – often without outside supervision – you should expect future employers to take a long, hard look at your academic record, as well as any disciplinary measures you may have faced while in school. As an educator, you are entrusted with society's most precious asset: its children. Most school districts have strict moral guidelines they expect professional educators to follow, even while still attaining your degree.

If you have decided teaching is the job for you, an adverse disciplinary finding on your academic record has the potential to disrupt both your education as well as your professional career goals. If you or your child is currently facing a code of conduct violation, including an academic misconduct charge or a Title IX investigation, while working toward a teaching degree, it is important to get the advice of an experienced attorney-advocate as soon as possible to reach a positive outcome.

Student Disciplinary Issues for Teachers and Educators

Aspiring educators may end up facing a variety of potential misconduct issues during their academic careers. They may include academic issues, drug or alcohol-related charges, or even Title IX sexual harassment claims. Any such allegation is a serious matter – but if you hope to one day work in the education field, such a charge has the power to derail your career goals if not settled in a favorable way. Some of the most serious concerns that future educators may face include:

Colleges and universities across the country have published code of conduct rules to govern how they handle such concerns. While many schools are likely to handle such issues in similar ways, the devil is in the details. Each school will have its own specific regulations, policies, and procedures to investigate and adjudicate any allegations. Knowing your school's process is the first step in successfully defending any misconduct claim – and making sure your rights are protected every step of the way.

Academic Misconduct

Whether your school refers to it as academic conduct or academic honesty, you are likely to find detailed rules regarding what's expected of you in your Student Handbook or university code of conduct. Simply defined, academic misconduct is any action or attempted action that may give you an unfair advantage over other members of your class. And this is the type of allegation that most schools take extremely seriously. After all, as a teacher, you will be expected to uphold academic honesty in your own classroom. If you have been charged with such misconduct, schools may wonder if you have the ability to do so.

A finding of academic misconduct, depending on the specific charge and your school's policies, can result in suspension, permanent expulsion, or, in severe cases, a revocation of your bachelor's or graduate degree. If you hope to pursue a career in education, this is not the kind of black mark you want on your academic record. Such a finding can affect your ability to get into graduate school, obtain your teaching license, or work in the school of your choice. Common types of academic misconduct or academic dishonesty include:

Sadly, academic misconduct is more common than many people realize. Because of its prevalence, particularly in colleges and universities, professors are likely to conclude cheating or plagiarism are at play in any questionable academic situation – which means students often face allegations without thorough initial investigations. Often, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for what your professor suspects may be academic misconduct. But you must present that explanation in the right way for it to be effectively heard during your disciplinary hearing.

That said, there are many reasons why academic misconduct may occur. Students may feel overwhelmed by school demands or family issues, and misstep. They may lack the necessary support to complete work (and also lack the nerve to ask for help when they need it). They may be falsely accused of cheating by another student for any number of reasons.

Academic misconduct may also occur because students don't fully understand the rules or regulations regarding what constitutes academic integrity at their school. Many schools report cases of “accidental” plagiarism, or copying another's work, because the students never learned how to appropriately cite, quote, or use others' research when trying to support their own ideas in a paper, exam, or another assignment. While schools are quick to say that academic honesty is always a black and white issue, when you start to look at individual cases, it becomes easier to see the many, many shades of gray in such situations. That's why, if you are accused of an academic conduct violation, it is so important to understand your school's rules, their processes, and your individual rights. There is likely a solution that will not require a guilty finding on your permanent record.

If you receive notice of an academic conduct violation, your school may offer you the option to take a more lenient punishment if you quickly plead guilty. If your financial aid or degree is on the line, it may be tempting to trade an admission of guilt for a few months' suspension. Unfortunately, if your goal is to be a future educator, such a deal is not always in your best interest. That kind of blemish on your academic record may come back to haunt you as you pursue your license or a teaching job. To understand your options – as well as the potential long-term consequences of any plea arrangement – you will benefit from consulting with an attorney or advisor who has great experience in defending students in student disciplinary matters.

Disciplinary Charges

Teachers are expected to adhere to a strict morality code. Since they work so closely with young and impressionable students, they are expected to be positive role models for all students in their classrooms.

Yet, it's not uncommon for college or university students to face some sort of disciplinary charge while at school. What may have started as a prank or misunderstanding can quickly escalate into a notice of violation if you aren't careful. And, if you are found guilty, you may find it will interfere with your ability to get a teaching license or find a teaching job. Aspiring educators, like any other student, can face a variety of potential disciplinary charges as they pursue their degree in education. Some of the most common violations include:

It is important to thoroughly read your school's code of conduct to understand your school's specific rules, regulations, and policies – and what is expected of you while you are studying there. Often, one poor decision can lead to many unexpected consequences. If you are accused of a disciplinary violation, the advice of an experienced attorney-advocate can help ensure that one bad decision doesn't affect your goal of becoming an educator later in life.

Understandably, such rules are not always enforced at school – and how, when, and where they are applied can vary greatly, not only from school to school but from student to student. Such allegations may also come about due to misunderstandings between peers or between students and teachers. That's why, if you are accused of such a charge, it's so important to consult with a lawyer immediately. They can help you remediate the situation to your best advantage.

Title IX Violations

Are you familiar with Title IX? It is a federal civil rights law, passed as part of the 1972 Education Amendments, prohibiting sex discrimination in admissions, athletics, and employment for funded colleges and universities that accept federal funding of any sort. This likely includes your school. The statute, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq, covers a variety of claims, including:

Any Title IX allegation should be taken quite seriously. In the past, schools were required to investigate and remediate any Title IX violations immediately. Recent changes to federal regulations mean that schools now have slightly more flexibility in determining how to pursue an allegation. But, despite that flexibility, if you are accused of any Title IX violation, it is critical that you retain counsel as soon as possible.

Again, as a future educator, you will be expected to follow fairly strict moral guidelines. A guilty finding after a Title IX allegation would not be considered becoming of a teacher – and you may be denied entry to the profession or even removed from the classroom for having such a blemish on your academic record.

Drug or Alcohol Misuse

While many graduates' favorite college stories may involve parties with alcohol or drugs, colleges and universities, for the most part, have strict rules regarding their possession and use on campus. Violating those rules can lead to probation, suspension, or even permanent expulsion from school.

There's a reason why most public schools are marked by blue and white “Drug Free Zone” signs. Public school campuses across the country have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to illegal drugs or frequent misuse of alcohol – and even a small offense on your academic record may mean you will have trouble finding a teaching gig once you achieve your degree.

Endangering Others

As a teacher, you will be responsible for caring for a classroom full of children for nine months out of the year. Certainly, you are there to support their education. But you are expected to provide more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Your students' safety is also your mandate. As such, teacher candidates who have been found guilty of a disciplinary charge that involved the endangerment of others will likely find themselves being denied a state-issued teacher certification.

Threats, stalking, assault, or weapons charges while at college and university are the kind of allegations that would fall into this category. If you are accused of such a violation and hope to work in the educational field, you may find the consequences will follow you long past your college career. Consulting with an attorney-advocate, however, can help you mount the kind of defense to ensure such charges won't come back to haunt you later.

Future Educator Academic Issues

Aspiring teachers may also face academic issues that can impede their ability to complete their degrees or later obtain licensure. But students often have the ability to appeal any academic issue on the grounds of unequal treatment, unfairness, or other potential mitigating issues. While policies and procedures vary from school to school, most colleges and universities do have a prescribed academic appeals process that allows for:

Academic issues may happen for a variety of reasons. For example, some professors or degree programs may apply standards in an unfair or inconsistent manner. In other cases, students may not understand what's expected of them or may make mistakes that impact their grades. For example, grades may be affected if the student falls ill or is not receiving appropriate accommodations for a disability. There may also be situations where students are graded arbitrarily or inaccurately by teacher's assistants or professors. Many of these cases are rare – which makes it even more important that the student, as well as the school, quickly remediate them. Suspension or expulsion should always be the last choice in these cases. The appeals process offers schools the ability to work with students in order to come to a mutually agreeable solution that will allow students to move forward – and achieve their goals to one day become educators.

Academic Appeals Process

While most schools have some sort of appeals process outlined in their code of conduct, each college and university have their own specific guidelines and procedures. There are likely time limits regarding when you can challenge a particular grade, whether it's for an exam or for the semester as a whole. And you will need to provide substantive evidence to support grounds for an appeal. Make sure to check your academic guidelines to ensure you can meet all requirements. In addition, an experienced attorney-advocate with national experience in college academic appeals processes can help ensure you have the right documentation to support your claim, increasing the likelihood that your appeal will be approved.

Teaching Certification

Teacher certification is a process to determine whether prospective educators have met specific standards set by each state regarding the knowledge and experience to work with students in the classroom. Aspiring educators, after completing a bachelor's degree, are expected to pass a standardized exam, or sometimes even a series of subject-specific tests, in order to gain a state-issued teaching credential or license. It's important to note that these certification exams are designed to be challenging to accurately measure a new teacher's knowledge and skills. In fact, according to Education Week magazine, more than half of aspiring grade school teachers fail their licensing exam the first time around. It is not uncommon for teaching students to have to retake these exams – sometimes more than once.

Each state has its own certification board or department responsible for evaluating a student's bachelor's degree, educator preparation program, and licensure application. They are also tasked with renewing licenses, overseeing continuing education courses, and taking disciplinary actions against teachers, among other duties. It is important to understand the specific requirements of your state licensing board – and follow the application process to the letter.

While the process varies from state to state – and may contain certain exceptions for areas that are in dire need of teachers – students should expect to earn a bachelor's degree, complete an educator preparation program, and pass their certification exams before submitting an application for licensure. They will also be expected to undergo a background check complete with fingerprinting to ensure they meet the exacting standards expected of teachers.

Know Your Rights

Your decision to pursue a career as an educator is one that will require hard work and dedication – not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and other related fees. Your time at college, university, or graduate school is helping you prepare to inspire young minds – and our society's future. That's why it's so important that, if you find yourself accused of any code of conduct violation, you know your rights, as well as the right way to proceed.

If you have received a notice of disciplinary violation, it's important to consult with an attorney-advocate to guide you through your school's judicial proceedings and to help you mount a defense that will help ensure the outcome will not negatively impact your goals of working as an educator. While, at the moment, certain allegations may seem trifling – but a finding of guilt can, and too often does, have consequences long after your degree has been conferred.

You've worked hard to get where you are. With your degree on the line – as well your ability to one day gain a teaching position at the school of your choice – it is vital you understand that any code of conduct, academic misconduct, or Title IX allegation can lead to significant consequences. You do not want to have to explain a guilty finding on your permanent academic record to a graduate program, your state's teacher licensing board, or to a school's internal hiring committee. Therefore, if you have received a notice of violation for any allegation of misconduct, you will only benefit from consulting with experienced representation. By working with an attorney-advocate, who has worked with other students across the nation, you can make sure your rights are protected as you navigate your school's disciplinary procedures. In addition, you can better gather evidence to support a strong defense – and ensure a more favorable outcome that won't interfere with your goals of becoming a teacher or school administrator.

Helping Future Educators with Student Discipline Defense Across the Country

Attorney-advocate Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalled experience with resolving school-related issues and concerns unique to future educators, in addition to addressing university code of conduct violations. Having a representative in your corner – one who has successfully defended thousands of students across the nation – can make all the difference to your case's outcome and your future as an educator in the United States. To schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about how the Lento Law Firm can help you achieve your goal of becoming a teacher or school administrator, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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