TEACHER
Disciplinary Process

New York teachers face increasingly difficult challenges

Each year teachers in New York face more and more challenges that range from demanding school boards to harsh budget cuts. Amid rising expectations, potentially flawed evaluation systems can be used to dismiss good teachers who voice their opinions. A 2013 Columbia University study on teacher accountability policies found that in 22 cases out of a random selection of 155 cases between 1997 and 2007, hearing officers repeatedly urged for teachers to be provided more time and support to improve.

At Brill Legal Group, we ensure the voices of teachers are heard and their rights are protected when facing disciplinary action from aggressive school boards in New York City.

Defending Teacher Rights at 3020 Hearings

Facing teacher misconduct charges? We can help. New York schools must follow a certain disciplinary process before firing or penalizing a teacher. If you are accused of negligence, incompetence or misconduct, you have the right to a formal 3020 hearing.

The hearing process protects teachers from losing their jobs unfairly for reasons that may be personal, political or random in nature. We can fight against any sham charges that have been brought in an effort to dismiss you from employment.

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What happens when charges are filed?

Formal charges against a teacher are filed with the school district’s employment board. The board’s clerk or secretary must then inform other board members of the charges. After they are filed, the employment board has five days to decide if there is probable cause to proceed with disciplinary action against the teacher.

If the employment board decides to pursue the action, they are required to send a written statement to the accused teacher via certified mail with a return receipt included. The statement must contain the following information:

  • Details about the disciplinary charges
  • Potential maximum penalties if the teacher is found guilty after the hearing or waives their right to a hearing
  • Explanation of the teacher’s rights

If you feel your rights have been violated or that your job is at stake, you should contact an attorney immediately. Many teachers choose to retire rather than face a hearing, but you do not have to.

Handling a Statement of Charges

What should you do if you are charged with negligence or misconduct?

If formal charges are filed, you have 10 days to respond to the employment board upon receiving the statement of charges. In a written notification, the accused teacher must inform the board whether or not they seek a 3020 hearing.

What if I do not respond within 10 days?

Failure to respond within the specified time frame is considered a default waiver of the right to a hearing. The employment board will then use a majority vote to decide the outcome without ever examining evidence from the accused.

Being accused of violating teacher conduct is a serious matter that can impact your future career opportunities. The experienced lawyers at Brill Legal Group will make sure the board hears your side of the story. We vigorously fight for your right to protect your employment.

Investigation and Resolution

The disciplinary process can take some time, despite recent efforts to speed teachers' progress through the system.

Considerations for Teachers Facing Disciplinary Action

Once 3020 proceedings have been initiated, the teacher may be suspended while their case is investigated and resolved. In situations involving serious allegations such as selling drugs to students, sexual misconduct or other criminal felonies, a teacher may be suspended for an extended period without pay pending a hearing and decision on the charges. They may also be terminated immediately if found guilty.

However, teachers have important rights even during these initial stages. Not only must the charge be put in writing, but the accused should also be allowed to seek the counsel of a skilled lawyer during the disciplinary proceedings to fight the allegations.

According to the New York City Department of Education and The Wall Street Journal, city officials filed 826 disciplinary cases against teachers for misconduct or incompetence between 2012 and 2014. In the study, education officials noted that only a small percentage of the city’s nearly 75,000 teachers have disciplinary issues.

Do I Need a Lawyer for the 3020 Hearing?

During the hearing, teachers have the right to defend themselves by presenting witnesses and evidence before the hearing officer.

A disciplinary hearing is not a legal proceeding that takes place in court. However, having a knowledgeable teachers rights lawyer in your corner will help you stand up to school officials. They can be held accountable for any trumped up charges or potential discrimination intended to mask the unlawful dismissal of a teacher. Peter Brill and his team of lawyers know how to prepare for the hearing so that you have the strongest case possible.

The Decision

The hearing officer is required to present a written decision within 30 days of the hearing’s conclusion. Teachers found guilty of various charges are likely to be disciplined. Disciplinary actions can include a written reprimand, a fine, suspension without pay or even termination. Being fired will result in you losing your New York City teaching license. However, if the teacher is acquitted, their position will be restored with full pay, including for the suspension period. In addition, the charges will be removed from their employment record.

The New York City Department of Education found that between 2012 and 2014, the majority of penalties for teacher disciplinary cases were fines, with 171 teachers having to pay to keep their jobs. During that period, city officials collected $1.1 million in fines from teachers. Most cases were resolved with fines due to several reasons. Either the city was unable to prove the charges, officials did not provide teachers with enough assistance to improve or the teachers deserved a second chance. Other penalties included 23 terminations for poor performance, 19 suspensions and 17 terminations for misconduct.

No matter what the hearing officer’s final decision is, you may still be able to challenge it. Article 78 of New York State law allows teachers to appeal the decision in court. The school’s decision may be reviewed if it was unreasonable or based on insufficient evidence. However, this action must be taken immediately upon receiving the hearing officer’s decision as there is a time limit. As teachers are treated guilty until proven innocent, it is critical to act quickly and seek the advice of a New York teachers rights attorney in order to understand the legal options available to you.

Peter Brill and his team are skilled at handling charges of all levels of complexity. We get involved from the first moment an accusation is made and guide you through fighting the charges at every stage.

Contact Brill Legal Group today to discuss your case. We offer a free initial consultation.

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