This is how teacher misconduct is investigated in KY and the consequences educators can face

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A Herald-Leader review of 194 teachers whose teaching license was voluntarily surrendered, suspended or revoked by the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board from 2016 to 2021 shows the vast majority — 61% — trace back to sexual misconduct.

The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) investigates certified educator misconduct.

Private school teachers can be certified teachers but not all private school teachers are certified, according to Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) officials.

There are more than 42,000 certified teachers in Kentucky.

Here’s what residents need to know about how these investigations work.

How does a misconduct investigation start?

School districts first investigate the alleged misconduct. If that internal investigation reveals that an educator may have engaged in misconduct while employed in the school district, that might reasonably be expected to warrant consideration for action against the certificate under state law.

The superintendent is then required to send the case information to the EPSB. This duty exists regardless of district discipline.

Once the EPSB receives the complaint, the Commissioner of the KDE, or a designee, and staff will review all complaints to determine whether the complaint contains sufficient credible evidence that a violation of state law may have occurred. If the complaint contains credible evidence, staff then present the case to the EPSB.

The EPSB can conduct its own investigation by voting to send a case to an attorney for a review and investigation.

What must happen before disciplinary action is taken?

In order for the EPSB to take disciplinary action against a certified educator for criminal conviction, there must be a conviction.

Therefore, criminal cases are monitored as they proceed through the judicial process to determine when an educator is actually convicted or pleads guilty.

State law gives the EPSB the authority to take action against an educator’s certificate when they have been convicted of violating these certain statutes; however, if criminal charges are not filed, the EPSB still has the authority to take action against the educator’s certificate based on the underlying sexual misconduct.

How quickly does the EPSB act on criminally convicted educators’ licenses?

This is dependent upon when the EPSB learns of the criminal conviction. While the agency monitors those matters, it is not a party to the criminal case. It doesn’t get automatic notice of action in the pending criminal matter.

The EPSB requests that prosecutors provide updates regarding the status of criminal matters involving certified educators. The staff promptly requests a certified copy of the criminal court record upon notification of sentencing in order to move the EPSB case forward.

The EPSB typically holds cases in a pending status when there are underlying pending criminal matters, as long as the educator is not in the classroom. In instances where the educator has not been removed from the classroom, the EPSB may take action pursuant to state law prior to a criminal conviction.

School district investigations are handled at the local level and the EPSB is not involved in those investigations. The EPSB may receive information from the school district’s findings during the course of an EPSB investigation.

Regardless of age, the EPSB views sexual contact between a teacher and student as inappropriate and actionable, said Kentucky Department of Education General Counsel Todd Allen.

The EPSB takes allegations of sexual contact with a minor seriously to ensure students are not exposed to harm, while balancing the due process rights of accused educators, Allen said.