A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school. Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority. The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.
The synopsis of the bill is as follows:
Currently, the ability of the Department to take licensure action (i.e., suspension, revocation, limitation) is, in certain cases, contingent upon the public school employer first taking employment action (i.e., dismissal, termination). The Department believes that its ability, as the agency issuing professional teaching credentials to educators, to undertake licensure action should be separate from any action by the public school employer. Further, the Department seeks to expand the circumstances in which the Secretary may automatically suspend teaching credentials, specifically to include situations involving felony crimes against a children or where there is a clear and immediate danger to student safety or welfare.
This bill removes the requirement of employment action before disciplinable offenses may be handled by the Department, making this licensure disciplinary structure consistent with how other licensed professions are handled in this State. The bill also creates the power to impose temporary emergency suspensions in those rare instances where a teacher poses a threat to student health, safety, or welfare. Finally, this bill creates the confidential letter of concern that is non-disciplinary and may be used in those instances where a teacher’s behavior is not in violation of the code, but indicative of a practice that is a matter of concern. These two provisions also make teacher licensure discipline more similar to other licensed professions in the State.
You can read the proposed legislation below. The parts crossed out are what would be removed from code and anything underlined is the new insertions into state code.
I support any bill that would do these things if a teacher committed the type of felonies described in the legislation. I think anyone would have a difficult time supporting a reason why they wouldn’t. A student’s safety is and should be the top priority of any school! I believe in due process but if a student is put in true danger by an adult, there shouldn’t be a question here.
Where this could become a sticky issue is if a teacher is found not guilty by a court of law. This legislation would allow for them to get their license back but there is a reputation issue to consider. Sometimes the stigma or publicity of a crime can stick with a person. Even if they are found innocent, things might not be the same after that.
As I said, the bill is out for consideration. There is still time in this last month of the General Assembly to have it go through the committee process and full chamber votes for it to pass. But it must go through committee. There should be no suspension of rules on a bill like this. I look forward to hearing more about it in the House and Senate Education committees and how folks like DSEA, teachers, administrators, parents, districts, and charters feel about it.