A complaint was filed against a teacher with the State Board for Educator Certification, alleging that the teacher's certification was subject to sanctions for contract abandonment. The teacher requested a hearing on the complaint before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
At the hearing, evidence was introduced to show that the teacher was employed as a Head Start teacher in a classroom of 3- and 4-year-old students. A bilingual employee from the Head Start office approached the teacher in her classroom and asked her to be courteous when speaking Spanish, telling her that when Head Start team members speak Spanish with each other in front of non-Spanish-speaking team members, it may make those team members feel uncomfortable. This interaction made the teacher feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, and she reported it to the principal the day it occurred.
The principal took no action on her report and the teacher resigned shortly thereafter. The board of trustees found that no good cause existed for the teacher to abandon her contract and filed a complaint with SBEC alleging that the teacher resigned without good cause, and further informing SBEC that the district did not consent to her resignation.
The teacher testified that she did not feel valued because the principal did not directly address the incident, which took an emotional toll on the teacher. She testified that she had a 2-month-old daughter and was still breastfeeding. Following the incident, she said her breastmilk production immediately began to decrease and did not return to normal until after she resigned. The teacher also was started on antidepressants for postpartum depression. The teacher testified that the principal wanted her to continue working until the district found a suitable replacement and offered to make accommodations for her, but she did not feel comfortable trying to work with him.
The administrative law judge concluded that the teacher did not have good cause to abandon her contract. To the extent that the teacher asserted that she had good cause to resign because of a serious illness or health condition, there was insufficient evidence to support that. The teacher did not see a physician about her concerns until after she resigned, and she did not allege that she missed any work as a result of the incident.
However, the judge noted that although the usual sanction for contract abandonment is a one-year suspension of the teaching certificate, there were mitigating factors present that could justify reducing this sanction. Specifically, prior to her resignation, the teacher provided lesson plans and detailed notes for the incoming teacher that included information about her students' behavioral and medical needs and strategies for helping her students in the classroom. She was not asked nor required to provide such documentation, and the principal testified that it was helpful to have.
The administrative law judge recommended that the teacher should receive a sanction ranging from continuing education or training to either an inscribed or non-inscribed reprimand on her certification. The State Board for Educator Certification will vote on the judge's recommendation and issue a final order that imposes a sanction that it believes is appropriate after considering the recommendation.