In last week’s blog post, we visited a recent revision to the Texas educator discipline provisions found in Chapter 249 of the Texas Administrative Code providing that the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) can consider whether an educator violated a prior written directive from an administrator regarding that “educator’s behavior toward a student” when determining whether the educator solicited a romantic relationship with that student. This week we take the issue of educator insubordination a step further by looking at its relationship to an educator's worthiness to instruct or supervise the youth of Texas.
There are 15 reasons that SBEC may sanction a Chapter 21 educator’s certificate. Reason number two is occurs when SBEC finds “satisfactory evidence that…the person is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state” (19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.15 [b]). As you may suspect, “unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state” has its own definition, which is noted below:
Absence of those moral, mental, and psychological qualities that are required to enable an educator to render the service essential to the accomplishment of the goals and mission of the State Board for Educator Certification policy and Chapter 247 of this title (relating to Educators' Code of Ethics). Unworthy to instruct serves as a basis for sanctions under § 249.15(b)(2) of this title (relating to Disciplinary Action by State Board for Educator Certification) and for administrative denial under § 249.12(b) of this title (relating to Administrative Denial; Appeal). A determination that a person is unworthy to instruct does not require a criminal conviction. It is a rebuttable presumption that an educator who violates written directives from school administrators regarding the educator's behavior toward a student is unworthy to instruct or to supervise the youth of this state (19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.3 , emphasis added).
The underlined language in the definition above was adopted by SBEC on October 12, 2018 (43 Tex.Reg. 6841) and is critically important for Texas educators to understand. This rule makes it clear to Texas educators that SBEC presumes that the educator who violates written administrative directives regarding that educator’s behavior with a student is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state, thereby placing the burden on the educator to rebut that presumption.
As noted in the public comments received, one state teacher’s organization argued that the insertion of this language into the “definition of unworthy to instruct or supervise” placed the educator in the position of having to “disprove allegations in a written directive” (43 Tex.Reg. 6841) thereby violating the educator’s due process rights. In its response of disagreement, SBEC observed:
...an educator who has violated a directive regarding behavior toward a student still receives due process. The educator has an opportunity at the contested case hearing before the administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings to show that the administrator who made the directive was biased or incorrect, that the directive was unreasonable, or that the directive in some other way is not evidence of solicitation and does not show that the educator is unworthy to instruct. Such evidence would overcome and rebut the rebuttable presumption and the prima facie assumption created by these adopted amendments and would allow an innocent educator to escape discipline by the SBEC even if he or she had violated a directive regarding behavior toward students. (43 Tex.Reg. 6841)
In other words, SBEC is saying that the insubordinate educator can take his/her chances at a due process hearing. This is further evidence that through its rulemaking authority, SBEC continues to circumscribe the conduct of Texas educators who are alleged to have behaved inappropriately with or toward students.
To sum up, we now know that the Texas educator who violates a written administrative directive concerning behavior with a student can now be administratively adjudicated for solicitation of a romantic relationship with a student or minor (violating Standard 3.6 of the Texas Educator’s Code of Ethics) and/or being unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of the state of Texas. So yes, this insubordination stuff is very serious.