The Professional Practices unit within the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) is responsible for regulating the standards for competent and ethical performance of Oregon educators. The unit is comprised of a Director of Professional Practices, a Legal Liaison, three investigators, and two investigative assistants.
According to ORS 342.176 TSPC shall promptly undertake an investigation upon receipt of a complaint or information that may constitute grounds for:
a) Refusal to issue a license or registration, as provided under ORS 342.143;
b) Suspension or revocation of a license or registration, discipline of a person holding a license or registration, or suspension or revocation of the right to apply for a license or registration, as provided under ORS 342.175; or
c) Discipline for failure to provide appropriate notice prior to resignation, as provided under ORS 342.553
When a complaint or allegation is received in our office, it is assigned to an investigator according to geographical location. The investigator then prioritizes their caseload according to the severity of the allegation. All violations of the Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) for Competent and Ethical Performance of Oregon Educators are important; however, our number one priority is to protect the children. Therefore, cases such as sexual abuse, boundary issues i.e. inappropriate comments, text messages and social networking, and assault i.e. using excessive force against a child, take priority over violations of other standards.
Once the caseload has been prioritized, the investigator completes a thorough investigation by subpoenaing any necessary documents related to the case, interviewing witnesses and interviewing the educator whom the allegation is made against. All investigation material is confidential. If an educator refuses to participate in the interview process, they can be charged in accordance with OAR 584-020-0040(4)(p) which states: any educator who is under investigation and fails or refuses to respond to request for information, to furnish documents, or to participate in an interview with a Commission representative, may be charged with gross neglect of duty. This charge can result in a sanction against the educator's license.
After all the information is gathered, an unbiased report of the facts surrounding the allegations is written for the Commission to review. The case is then prepared for presentation to the Commissioners. Both the investigation report and the exhibits are uploaded in batches to a secure website prior to the Commission meeting. The Commissioners then review the cases so they can make a final determination during the Executive Session of the Commission meeting.
The Commission holds executive (non-public) sessions on the following matters:
1. receiving and discussing preliminary investigation reports on complaints and charges against licensed educators
2. taking action to dismiss the complaint or to charge the educator
3. deliberating the hearing record in disciplinary proceedings
4. consulting with counsel regarding litigation likely to be filed under ORS 192.660(2)(h) and; regarding privileged consultation regarding other legal matters under ORS 192.660(2)(f)
Adoption of an order resulting from a hearing must be done in a public session. See ORS 192.660(2)(b) and ORS 342.175 to 342.190.
If the Commissioners decide to take no further action on a case, then the case is dismissed and all information remains confidential. All parties involved in the case are then notified that no further action will be taken. If an educator is charged with misconduct, the Commissioners decide what the sanction will be at the Commission meeting. A notice is then sent to all parties involved that the educator is being charged with misconduct.
Once all parties have been notified, A Notice of Opportunity for Hearing (NOH) is prepared and sent to the educator who is being charged. The educator has 21 days from the date this notice is mailed to respond with a request for a hearing. If the Commission does not receive a response within 21 days, a Default Order is taken and the educator is sanctioned. However, the educator and/or attorney has the option of working with the Legal Liaison during this time to settle their case, this results in some type of Proposed Order, whether it's an Informal Letter of Reproval or a Stipulated Order.
If the educator requests a hearing after receiving the Notice of Opportunity for Hearing and a settlement can't be reached, a notice is sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings and a hearing is scheduled. This often takes several months based on the backlog of hearings at the OAH offices. The hearing is private unless the educator requests that it be public. The agency is represented by the DOJ Counsel and the agency’s Legal Liaison. The educator is most often represented by an attorney, but not always. The agency (TSPC) presents its case and the educator presents their defense. Following the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who conducted the hearing, writes a proposed order for the Commission’s consideration. The Commission is not required to accept the proposed order, but there are strict legal procedures that must be followed if the Commission proposes to reject the ALJ’s proposed order.