Q: We recently had a certified teacher resign amidst allegations that she provided alcohol to and drank with several high school students at a recent football game. We took the statements of the students involved as well as other witnesses and obtained copies of text messages and social media activity evidencing these activities. Now that I have her resignation letter, what’s my next step?
A: You should give the educator written notice that the allegations will be reported to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) before you (or your Board) officially accept the resignation. After notice is given, you will need to prepare a report to SBEC within seven (7) days of accepting the employee’s resignation.
Texas Education Code §21.006 and the Commissioner’s regulations outline the procedures to be followed when an educator’s employment is ended based on evidence of misconduct. 19 TAC §249.14. Examples of misconduct that require a report to SBEC include, for example, sexual relations with students or minors, theft of school property or funds, orcommission of a crime on school property or at a school-sponsored event (e.g., providing alcohol to minors at a football game). However, before the employee’s resignation can be accepted and a report to SBEC made, the educator must be given written notice of the District’s obligation to make a report to SBEC. 19 TAC §249.14(d)(3)(A). The notice can be in the form of a simple memo or letter to the employee explaining the allegations and the District’s obligation to report under the law and the possibility for sanctions against his or her certificate.
Once notice has been given to the employee, your Board Policy DFE (LOCAL) will determine who has authority to accept the mid-year resignation of a certified employee. Some local policies will delegate this authority to the Superintendent. If this is the case, you can simply write “Accepted” on the resignation letter, along with your signature and the date. A copy of the accepted resignation should be returned to the employee. If board approval is needed, the employee’s resignation will need to be brought before the board of trustees at the next regularly scheduled meeting for consideration and action. If the board acts to accept the resignation, the acceptance is effective once a letter is issued to the employee giving notice of the same.
After giving the employee notice of the District’s reporting obligations and officially accepting the resignation, the Superintendent will then have 7 days to prepare a report to SBEC. The report must include, at a minimum, the factual circumstances surrounding the resignation and must identify the educator by name and any aliases, certificate number or social security number, last known mailing address and phone numbers. TEC §21.006. The report must also include the names and contact information for any alleged victims and witnesses. TEC §21.006. It is advisable to include any documentation gathered during the District’s investigation, including, in this instance, the student and witness statements and copies of the incriminating text messages or social media posts. The Commissioner’s regulations specifically provide that student statements should not be withheld under FERPA since “education records” do not include records that “relate to a school employee in his or her capacity as a school employee.” 19 TAC §249.14(e). Your District’s legal counsel will be helpful in preparing the report and determining the appropriate investigative documents to produce to SBEC.