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Role of Professional Practices Services

The Office of Professional Practices Services (PPS) investigates misconduct by educators who hold a Florida Educator Certificate or a valid application for a Florida Educator Certificate. The PPS investigates when there are ultimate facts to support the educator has broken the law or violated the Principles of Professional Conduct. These laws and rules outline the standards of conduct expected of certified educators in Florida.

Penalties against an educatorís certificate are not issued by the Commissioner of Education or the Department of Education; penalties are issued by the Education Practices Commission (EPC). The EPC is a quasi-judicial body of peers, law enforcement and lay persons set forth in Section 1012.79, Florida Statutes, which determines what penalty is issued in each case.

Similar to other administrative offices with investigators who work on behalf of licensing boards (like those for state boards of medicine that license physicians), the PPS is responsible for investigating the allegation, interviewing victims and witnesses, and reporting the findings. This review is an administrative process Ė only to find if action against an educatorís certificate should be taken Ė it is not a criminal investigation. The following outlines the investigative process.

Step 1       Step 2       Step 3       Step 4       Step 5       Step 6       Step 7



Step 1: Complaint Filed

The PPS receives information or complaints from public school districts, private schools, charter schools, lab schools, and other sources. Then the complaint is reviewed to see if there is jurisdiction to investigate, meaning the educator holds or has applied for a Florida educator certificate. When a case is referred to the PPS it will:
  • Verify certification status;
  • Review documents submitted;
  • Request additional documents if necessary; and
  • Open a case for investigation;

Or

  • Verify certification status;
  • Review documents submitted;
  • Request additional documents if necessary;
  • Close case with no further action;

Or

  • Verify certification status;
  • Determine no certificate or application; and
  • Close case because the individual has no certificate.

Step 2: Case is opened

If a case is opened, the educator is notified. The employing school or school district is also notified if an investigation has been opened against one of its employees.

Step 3: Investigation

An investigation to gather facts is conducted and may include interviews of victims and witnesses, and the collection of pertinent documents and other evidence. Once all relevant information has been secured, a meeting is offered for the educator to review the information. At this point, the educator can provide any explanation, rebuttal, or documents.

Step 4: Referral to the Counsel for Professional Practices

Legal counsel reviews the findings of the investigation to determine if there is cause to take action against the educatorís certificate. Any decision to recommend a finding of Probable Cause against a certificate must be supported by clear and convincing evidence that the misconduct occurred and violated statute or rule. After review by legal counsel, a case is ready to be heard by the Commissioner of Education.

Step 5: Commissioner of Education issues findings

The Commissioner of Education reviews the findings of the investigation and determines if there is Probable Cause to warrant discipline against a certificate. If Probable Cause is found, the educator could face disciplinary action against the certificate, up to and including, suspension or revocation of his or her certificate. In cases of Probable Cause or No Probable Cause, the educator, his or her attorney if applicable, the employing school or school district and the Bureau of Educator Certification are all notified of the decision.

No Probable Cause - A decision of No Probable Cause means that the educator's conduct, upon investigation, did not warrant action against the certificate.

Probable Cause - A decision of Probable Cause means the educator's conduct was determined to warrant disciplinary action against the educator's certificate and initiates proceedings pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, the Administrative Procedures Act. Because an educatorís certificate is a property right, action against that certificate must be pursued following the guidelines of due process.

Step 6: Actions by the EPC

After Probable Cause is determined, the educator can appeal the decision by various means:
  • A certified educator can surrender his or her certificate for permanent revocation.
  • An educator may reach a settlement agreement with the Department of Education. A settlement agreement must be accepted by the EPC.
  • An informal hearing occurs when the educator admits to the allegations in the administrative complaint and elects to personally appear before the EPC and mitigate the case.
  • A formal hearing occurs when the educator disputes the allegations in the complaint and elects to have a hearing before an administrative law judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings. Unlike a criminal court, this is an administrative review in which the judge would issue a recommended order that provides findings of fact, conclusions of law and a recommended order for penalty. The Recommended Order is forwarded to the EPC and must be accepted or rejected, in full or in part, by the EPC.

Step 7: Notification of the Final Order

Once the EPC members issue the final decision, the EPCís legal counsel prepares a Final Order. This order is a binding document that outlines what sanctions or disciplinary actions have been taken against the educatorís certificate. The EPC staff distributes a copy of the order to the educator, the current or last employer, the Bureau of Educator Certification, the PPS and the Departmentís legal counsel. The EPC reports the Final Order to the Florida Administrative Law Review. Information about the action is posted to a national clearinghouse so that other statesí education agencies may have knowledge of the action in Florida. In addition, the information is posted in the internal system maintained by the Bureau of Educator Certification so school districts can check for any disciplinary actions against current or potential employees. PPS maintains a disciplinary action Web site where the public can view Final Orders issued by the EPC.