Investigation of Misconduct by a Teacher

For public and private school teachers, certified educators, and other education professionals throughout the State of Florida, the Office of Professional Practices with the Florida Department of Education (DOE) is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct.

Misconduct can include allegations that a misdemeanor or felony offense was committed either because of an arrest or the filing of formal charges. Allegations of misconduct can even include misdemeanor traffic offenses when the arresting officer gives you the notice to appear in court.

The most common criminal charges against teachers and certified educators in Florida might include:

  • DUI (often called drunk driving, DWI, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs);
  • Driving while license suspended or revoked;
  • Shoplifting (or other forms of petit or grand theft);
  • Domestic violence battery or child abuse for an incident that occurs in the teacher’s home or involves the teacher’s family member; or
  • Possession of marijuana or cannabis (or other controlled substances or narcotics).

Florida Statutes Section 1012.796 provides that any misconduct complaint and all information obtained according to the Office of Professional Practices Services investigation with the Florida Department of Education is exempt from public disclosure and considered “confidential” at least until the conclusion of the preliminary investigation.

Even if you are not charged with a crime, an allegation of educator misconduct can be made against you for any of the following allegations:

  • direct harm to students (such as physical or sexual abuse);
  • an act detrimental to the education profession (such as falsifying documentation of continuing education courses or cheating on a professional exam).

Although most allegations of educator misconduct are related to something that occurs at the school campus or with members of the school community, it can also involve something that happens off-campus and away from students.

Attorneys for Disciplinary Actions Against Teachers in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent teachers accused or arrested for a crime. Even when no arrest is made, the teacher might still face an investigation and disciplinary action against their certification.

We can help you during the preliminary investigation or after a complaint is filed.

Our main office is in Tampa, FL. We have additional offices in Clearwater in Pinellas County and New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500.

Notice of the Preliminary Investigation of the Teacher

Once a case has been opened, the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services will send the teacher or certified educator written notice via certified mail.

The letter will tell the educator the information that makes up the allegation, including the criminal offense, whether charges were filed, and the date of the alleged offense.

The letter will state that if the allegations are founded, the allegations could lead to disciplinary action against the teacher or certified educator’s Florida Educator Certificate. Disciplinary action against the teaching certificate could include permanent revocation.

Defending a Teacher against Allegations of Misconduct

Within ten (10) days of receipt of the written notice, the teacher or certified educator (or the teacher’s criminal defense attorney) can provide the Office of Professional Practices Services in the Florida Department of Education with documents, exhibits, or a list of evidentiary witnesses that are relevant to disproving the criminal allegations or showing that a defense can be asserted in the case.

After the preliminary investigation by the Office of Professional Practices Services, the teacher or certified educator (or the criminal defense attorney) will be notified by certified mail of the date and time to review the investigation materials and respond to the allegations of misconduct.

The rules and statutes that govern the process of contesting allegations of misconduct made against a teacher or certified educator in Florida can be found at

If the commissioner of education finds probable cause to justify sanctions against your Florida Educator Certificate, then you will receive a “Finding of Probable Cause” letter, Administrative Complaint, and Election of Rights form by certified mail a few months later.

In most cases, the teacher will select the settlement option that allows the teacher to neither admit nor deny the allegations. Instead, the teacher can request a forty-five (45) day period to negotiate a settlement agreement.

During that time, the teacher’s attorney can help the teacher reach the settlement so that a formal or informal hearing can be avoided.

Sanctions Against Your Florida Educator Certificate

When a teacher is accused of a crime or another form of misconduct, the Commissioner of Education with the State of Florida might take action if probable cause exists to justify sanctions against the teacher’s Florida Educator Certificate.

Any teacher violates section 1012.795(1)(f), Florida Statutes, by being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of guilty to, regardless of adjudication of guilty, any misdemeanor, felony, or any other criminal charge other than a minor traffic violation.

Penalties levied against the teacher can include:

  • the issuance of a written reprimand;
  • the assessment of an administrative fine;
  • being placed on probation for any period of time;
  • having a restriction placed on the scope of practice;
  • receiving a suspension not to exceed five years;
  • receiving a revocation not to exceed ten years; or
  • suffering the permanent revocation of your Educator Certificate.

When the allegations against the teacher involve the use of drugs or alcohol, the Education Practices Commission will often direct the teacher to enroll in the Recovery Network Program (RNP).

An attorney can help you decide whether you should self-report the issue and begin treatment immediately. In some cases, it is much faster, cheaper, and more convenient to self-report rather than to wait on an administrative action that is sure to follow.

In these cases, you will receive an administrative complaint and election of rights (appeal) form. The form must be completed, signed, and returned to the Office of Professional Practices Services.

The administrative complaint seeks appropriate disciplinary sanctions against the teacher’s educator’s certificate under sections 1012.315, 1012.795, and 1012.796, Florida Statutes.

The rules that govern these administrative actions are found in the Florida Administrative Code at Rule 6A-10.081 for the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida.

Our attorneys can help you fight for your right to settle the matter on the best possible terms. We can also help you enter an appeal for your teacher suspension or the revocation of your teaching certificate.

Settlement Agreements with the Education Practices Commission in Florida

In many of these cases, a settlement agreement can be reached. After Pam Stewart, as the Commissioner of Education, files an Administrative Complaint seeking to suspend, revoke, permanently revoke or take other disciplinary action against the Florida eductor’s certificate, your attorney can help you negotiate a settlement agreement.

After you enter into the written Settlement Agreement for resolution, a Teacher Hearing Panel of the Education Practices Commissions meets via telephone conference call to decide whether to accept the Settlement Agreement as the appropriate resolution of the cause.

If it is accepted, then a final order will be entered and the educator will be required to comply with its terms and conditions. Copies of the final order will be provided to the Office of Professional Practices Services, Bureau of Educator Certification, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and the Clerk of the Division of Administrative Hearings.

Unless waived, if you were adversely affected by the final order, you are entitled to judicial review according to Section 120.68, Florida Statutes. The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure govern review proceedings.

Such proceedings are commenced by filing one copy of a notice of appeal with the Education Practices Commission and a second copy, accompanied by filing fees prescribed by law, with the district court of appeal, First District, or with the District Court of Appeal in the Appellate District where the party resides. The notice of appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the rendition of the final order.

Such proceedings are commenced by filing one copy of a notice of appeal with the Education Practices Commission and a second copy, accompanied by filing fees set by law, with the district court of appeal, First District, or with the District Court of Appeal in the Appellate District where the party resides.

The notice of appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the rendition of the final order.

When the School is Notified of an Arrest of a School Employee

As required by Florida Statute §1012.797, local law enforcement agencies are required to report within 48 hours, the name and address of any school employee arrested on a felony charge or misdemeanor involving child abuse or drug possession to the appropriate school superintendent.

To comply with this law, any law enforcement officer who, in the course of his investigation, determines that a person charged with a qualifying crime is an employee of any school district within the State of Florida shall note the school district’s location on the entities section of the general offense report.

The records coordinator will be responsible for causing a copy of the face sheet of the incident report, to be mailed, depicting the arrested person’s name and address, to the appropriate superintendent of schools within the allotted time.

Upon notification by law enforcement, the principal must, within 24 hours, notify parents of enrolled students who had direct contact with the employee and include, at a minimum, the employee’s name and the specific charges against him or her. Section 1012.797, F.S.

Florida’s Department of Education (DOE) is also required to investigate complaints or allegations made against certified educators and initiate proceedings to suspend or revoke the educator’s certificate if grounds exist to do so.

Florida law references certified educators employed by traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs, while omitting approved virtual instruction providers. Section 1012.796(1), F.S.

Florida law also requires law enforcement agencies to notify the appropriate district school superintendent, charter school governing board, private school owner or administrator, president of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, or university lab schools director or principal, as applicable, within 48 hours if an employee is arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor involving the abuse of children or sale or possession of controlled substances. Section 1012.797, F.S.

Teacher’s Bill of Rights in Florida

Florida’s newly instituted Teacher’s Bill of Rights was signed into law by the Governor in 2023.

Section 1015.05 addresses the teacher’s authority to control and discipline students in the classroom and in other places in which the teacher is assigned to be in charge of students.

Pursuant to Section 1003.32(1)(j) and “in order to provide an orderly and safe learning environment for students, a teacher may:…[u]se reasonable force, according to standards adopted by the State Board of Education, to protect himself or herself or others from injury.”

Under Section 1015.05(2), “…in cases in which a teacher faces litigation or professional practices sanctions for an action taken pursuant to subsection (1), there is a rebuttable presumption that a teacher was taking necessary action to restore or maintain the safety or educational atmosphere of his or her classroom.”

In this context, the classroom should also include other places where the teacher is assigned to be in charge of students.

This article was last updated on Friday, February 16, 2024.