Office of Professional Practices
Office of Professional Practices
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What is educator misconduct?
Misconduct occurs in various forms and ranges in severity from allegations of direct harm to students (such as physical or sexual abuse) to an act detrimental to the education profession (such as falsifying documentation of continuing education courses or cheating on a professional exam). For the most part, misconduct by educators occurs either on the school campus or with members of the school community, but can also be something that happens outside of the school environment and does not involve students.
What resources are available to me as a parent to help me protect my child?
Several helpful resources for parents can be found on this Web site, such as the ability to check the status of a Florida educatorís certificate and information on how to file a complaint against a certified educator. The Department of Education also hosts a Web site, MyFloridaTeacher.com, where the public can search an online database to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against a certified educatorís certificate.
How do I check the status of an individualís Florida Educator Certificate?
To view the certification status of any Florida educator, you can search by his or her name at the Department of Educationís Bureau of Educator Certification teacher look-up.
Who should I contact if I believe an educator has acted inappropriately?
We recommend that you first contact your school principal or administrator so the schoolís administration is aware of any issues or concerns you as a parent may have. You may also wish to contact the school district office that reviews employee misconduct.
You may also express your concerns to your elected school board officials. In cases where you believe the misconduct may be criminal, it is appropriate to contact local law enforcement. If at any time you suspect that a child has been harmed or is threatened with harm by a licensed educator, you may contact the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) toll-free at 1-800-96-ABUSE. Further information about reporting abuse may be found on the DCF Web site at www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse.
When an educatorís misconduct is substantiated and is sufficient to warrant discipline against a certificate, a public school or district, charter school, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind or private school that accepts scholarship students under a Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship or a John M. McKay Scholarship is required to report the educatorís misconduct to the Department of Educationís Office of Professional Practices Services. Due to this requirement, we suggest parents and citizens work through the local school district first as employers have more immediate control over the conduct of their employees. Professional Practices Services reviews misconduct only for the purpose of determining if discipline against the educatorís certificate is warranted.
What are the responsibilities of the stateís Office of Professional Practices Services?
The Office investigates allegations of misconduct by certified educators when that misconduct, being true, would constitute a sanction (disciplinary action) against the individualís Florida Educator Certificate. The authority of the Office may be found in Section 1012.796, Florida Statutes.
What is the jurisdiction of the stateís Office of Professional Practices Services?
The Office investigates allegations of misconduct by certified educators, or applicants for a Florida Educator Certificate. The Office has no authority to investigate misconduct by non-certified individuals such as bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, support staff, volunteers, non-certified substitute teachers and non-certified district administrators.
What type of complaints does the Office of Professional Practices Services pursue?
The Office investigates behavior when the educator violates the Florida Statutes and the Code of Ethics and Principles of Professional Conduct for Educators in Florida, (PDF) and that misconduct would warrant a sanction against his or her certificate.
Example 1: Teacher Mr. Jones in an attempt to quiet 2nd grade student Mark, placed duct tape over Markís mouth and this allegation was supported by written witness testimony.
Example 2: Teacher Ms. Call was found guilty of being in possession of marijuana.
Are all complaints investigated?
No. Complaints must be ďlegally sufficient.Ē Legally sufficient means that the allegation has been supported as being true and the conduct would violate the pertinent Florida Statutes or State Board of Education Rules (Code of Ethics) and the violation would warrant a sanction against the certificate.
Example: Parent alleges teacher Ms. Smith gave her son, Peter, a detention because he failed to turn in his homework. (This allegation would not be investigated by the Office of Professional Practices Services because the actions of Ms. Smith would not constitute a discipline against her educator certificate.)
If I believe a violation has occurred and wish to file a complaint against a teacher with the Department of Educationís Office of Professional Practices Services, what do I do?
You must submit your complaint in writing and include the following information: Download an Educator Misconduct Complaint Form .
- Educatorís first and last name
- Date of conduct
- Specific summary of the incident
- Any documents to support the claim
- Your contact information including, full name, address, phone numbers (home/work/cell)
- Your complaint must be signed and submitted via U.S. Postal Mail.
Complaints should be mailed to:
Office of Professional Practices Services
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400
What happens when a complaint is opened with the stateís Office of Professional Practices Services?
Complaints are assigned to an investigator. The employer (the school or school district) and the educator are typically informed of the investigation. The investigator conducts an investigation which may include school visits; interviews with victim and witnesses (adults and minors); retrieving court documents; and reviewing personnel files, student folders and audit reviews. When an investigation is completed, the educator is provided the opportunity to review the findings and respond to the allegations. The results are reviewed by Department of Education attorneys and presented to the Commissioner of Education who determines if the educatorís conduct warrants disciplinary action against the educatorís certificate. Ultimately, the Education Practices Commission, a quasi-judicial body, determines what penalty to issue against a teacherís certificate.
How long do investigations typically take?
Each investigation is treated individually. The unique qualities of each case will determine the length of time needed to complete an investigation. For more information on the investigative process, click here to view a document describing the process step-by-step .
If it is determined an educator did something wrong, what kind of disciplinary actions can be taken against an educatorís certificate?
Each case is considered on an individual basis and if any wrongdoing has been found, penalties are also considered and issued on an individual basis. Penalties can range from a letter of reprimand, fines, probation, suspension or revocation. Florida law provides that when a certificate is suspended or revoked that educator is prohibited from being employed in any position involving direct student conduct in a public school for the duration of the suspension or revocation.