Education Laws and Regulations
Reminder about Requirement to Report Educator Misconduct
|To:||Superintendents of Schools, Charter School Leaders, Directors of Approved Day or Residential Schools, Educational Collaboratives and Other Interested Parties|
|From:||Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D.|
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
|Date:||April 22, 2009|
Massachusetts, like many other states, requires school superintendents, charter school leaders and other administrators such as principals or directors of approved special education day and residential schools and educational collaboratives to report to the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in writing whenever a licensed educator is dismissed, not renewed or resigns after committing misconduct that might warrant revocation or other limitation of the educator's license. The state regulation, 603 CMR 7.14 (8)(h), reads as follows:
(h) Administrators' Obligation to Report. Any administrator who has dismissed, declined to renew the employment of, or obtained the resignation of any educator for any of the reasons cited in 603 CMR 7.14 (8) (a) shall report in writing such resignation or dismissal and the reason therefor to the Commissioner within 30 days. This obligation to report also applies when an administrator acquires relevant information after an educator's dismissal, resignation, or non-renewal. Failure to make such reports shall be grounds on which the Commissioner may revoke the administrator's license.
The reporting requirement is designed to ensure that, as the licensing authority for Massachusetts educators, the Commissioner is made aware of misconduct that may call into question the "sound moral character" that state law requires of every licensed educator. The grounds that may trigger license action are set forth in the Educator Licensure Regulations at 603 CMR 7.14(8)(a), available online at http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr7.html?section=14.
The grounds include conviction of certain crimes, loss of another professional license, demonstrated unfitness, and gross misconduct or negligence in the conduct of the license holder's professional duties. Please note that the regulation does not require reporting of dismissals or non-renewals for reasons of poor job performance or other factors that do not implicate the grounds for license action in 603 CMR 7.14 (8)(a).
In summary, the Educator Licensure Regulations require superintendents, charter school leaders, principals or directors of approved day and residential schools and educational collaboratives, and other administrators to:
- Make a written report to the Commissioner when you dismiss or accept the resignation of a licensed educator or decline to renew the educator's contract for one of the reasons noted above.
- Include the reason for your action.
- Report educator misconduct even if you learned about it after the license holder no longer works for you.
- Send your report within 30 days of the employment action or of your learning about the misconduct.
Administrators should also report professional misconduct by educators who are not licensed. In certain circumstances, state law permits schools to employ educators who are not licensed, such as temporary substitute teachers, personnel employed under a waiver, and some charter school teachers. The Department encourages administrators to report any conduct by an educator that falls within the realm of professional misconduct as defined in 603 CMR 7.14 (8)(a), even if the educator is not licensed. Such reporting will ensure that if that educator later seeks licensure, the Department will be aware of past events. In appropriate cases, the Department may refer the matter to other authorities as well.
When the Department receives a report of professional misconduct by a licensed educator, we will flag that educator's license in ELAR - the Department's online educator licensure service - while an investigation continues and before any license action is concluded. A superintendent or other school hiring authority who checks ELAR for that educator's license status will see that the license is currently Under Review and whom to contact for further information. This underscores the importance in the hiring process of confirming electronically through ELAR that candidates hold the appropriate license for the position and that their license status is Active. Please consult the Commissioner's memo entitled Careful Hiring of Educational Personnel at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=4237.
Please note that this reporting requirement is separate from the duty of a school administrator or other mandated reporter under the child abuse law, Mass. General Laws c. 119, § 51A, to report suspected child abuse or neglect immediately to the Department of Children and Families (formerly called the Department of Social Services), regardless of whether the suspected perpetrator is an educator.
Our work in this area is of great importance to the safety and well-being of students and the integrity of the educational profession. I appreciate the seriousness with which superintendents and others have responded to the reporting requirement. If you have any questions about the reporting of educator misconduct, please contact Attorney Cathleen Cavell of the Department's Legal Office at 781-338-3400. Thank you for your continuing attention to this professional responsibility.