Anyone with a license from Connecticut can lose it. Teachers are no different. The Commissioner of Education can revoke certification at any time.
The commissioner needs a reason, and by law he can have five. The first three are straightforward: the teacher lied to get their license, they persistently failed to do their work or they committed a crime.
The fourth reason, ‘unfitness’ for the job, is broader. Common sense would say that a teacher that developed a mental or physical disability could be unfit to teach. It would depend on whether the school could accommodate the disability.
The fifth and broadest reason to revoke certification is “due and sufficient cause.” This gives the commissioner wide authority. In essence it means the teacher has done something to show they can no longer be trusted with children. As examples, teachers have lost certification after falsifying reading scores or continually mistreating students.
For each of the five the commissioner must have facts. First, they must have enough facts for probable cause to act. Second, to actually revoke certification the commissioner must hold a public hearing and prove that the ‘preponderance’ of the evidence favors revocation. As ‘preponderance’ means fifty percent plus one bit more, this is a low bar to clear.
The commissioner begins the process towards revocation by sending the teacher notice of an investigation. This ‘Request for Certification Action’ alerts the teacher to the reason for action. It presents the facts the commissioner has learned, without any decision yet on probable cause.
With this notice the commissioner sends the teacher an ‘opportunity to show compliance’. It invites them to attend a ‘compliance conference’ with lawyers from the state board of education. There the lawyers ask the teacher about the commissioner’s investigation and give the teacher a chance to explain. This is the teacher’s chance to show that despite the commissioner’s facts, they haven’t done enough to lose certification.
The teacher may bring an attorney to help explain why the facts do not support probable cause. For example, they can show that the teacher has fixed the problem that started the investigation. They can show that the commissioner has misunderstood the facts. They can introduce new facts.
If the conference ends with the teacher failing to satisfy the state, the commissioner will serve them with an ‘administrative complaint’. This tells the teacher that the commissioner has found probable cause to revoke certification. It sets out a date and time for the formal hearing.
But with the complaint the commissioner will give the teacher one last chance to avoid a hearing. The state will offer the teacher a ‘consent order’. The order will propose terms on which the teacher may keep their license. It will require the teacher to agree to a suspension of their certification. This will keep them out of the classroom for a specified amount of time.
The order will also require the teacher to agree to certain conditions. Their purpose will be to enable the state to once again entrust the teacher with students and a classroom. The conditions may demand that the teacher undertake personal therapy. They may demand that the teacher take courses on professional ethics. To some extent the teacher and their lawyer can negotiate these terms.
However the order is finally worded, it will be a tough pill to swallow. Its terms will be a matter of public record. It will describe charges the teacher disputes. It will recite facts the teacher would prefer to keep private.
The settlement will likely be the only way left for the teacher to keep their license. The alternative is worse. A formal hearing to revoke certification creates a public record, too. Real people will testify. The commissioner will almost certainly prove the preponderance of the evidence. Compared to that, a settlement is a better option.