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How to File a Complaint

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST AN EDUCATOR, A CHARTER OR CYBER CHARTER SCHOOL STAFF MEMBER OR A CONTRACTED EDUCATIONAL PROVIDER STAFF MEMBER:

The Office of Chief Counsel, Pennsylvania Department of Education, is charged under the Educator Discipline Act with investigating misconduct complaints against certificated educators, charter or cyber charter school staff members and contracted educational provider staff members.  If you have a concern about the conduct of any of the above-listed employees, the following information may be helpful in determining whether a complaint is the appropriate avenue to address your concern.

WHAT TYPES OF MISCONDUCT WILL BE INVESTIGATED AND PROSECUTED BY THE DEPARTMENT?

Under the Act, the Department is authorized to investigate and prosecute cases of misconduct involving immorality, negligence, intemperance, incompetency, cruelty, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or exploitation, violations of the Code for Professional Practice and Conduct, illegal use of professional title, failure to comply with duties under the Act  including the mandatory reporting duties, and actions taken to threaten, coerce or discriminate or otherwise retaliate against an individual who files a complaint or participates in a disciplinary proceeding in good faith.
In addition the Act empowers the Commission to revoke the certification and employment eligibility of any educator who has been convicted of a crime set forth in section 111(e)(1) through (3) of the Public School Code or a crime involving moral turpitude.
Complaints must relate to a specific educator and not to a school system in general.  Some complaints may be resolved more appropriately at the local level and we encourage you to raise your concerns with the educator and/or administration.  For example, complaints dealing with teaching style, discretionary decisions and/or curriculum choices typically do not fall within the purview of the educator discipline system under the Act.

HOW DO I FILE A COMPLAINT?

All complaints must be submitted on the form created by the Department, Educator Complaint Form
Neither verbal nor anonymous complaints will be accepted.  All complaints and supporting documentation should be submitted to:
Office of Chief Counsel
Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333

 

CAN A COMPLAINT BE FILED AGAINST AN EDUCATOR WORKING IN A PRIVATE SCHOOL?

A complaint can be filed against an educator employed by a non-public school so long as the educator is certificated.

CAN A COMPLAINT BE FILED AGAINST AN ADMINISTRATOR?

The term “educator” includes administrators and is not limited to classroom teachers.

CAN A COMPLAINT BE FILED AGAINST A TEACHING ASSISTANT OR PARAPROFESSIONAL?

The Act only authorizes action against certificated educators, charter or cyber charter school staff members and contracted educational provider staff members.  A complaint against a teaching assistant or paraprofessional will only be accepted if he or she holds educator certification.

CAN A COMPLAINT BE FILED AGAINST A COACH?

The Act only authorizes action against certificated educators, charter or cyber charter school staff members and contracted educational provider staff members.  A complaint against a coach will only be accepted if he or she holds educator certification.  It does not matter that he or she is not employed as an educator.

What if I have a complaint about an employee of a college/university or other post-secondary institution?

The Commission does not have jurisdiction over post-secondary employees unless they are certificated on the elementary or secondary level. Complaints about employees of post-secondary institutions should be directed to the institution or its governing board.

DO I HAVE TO HAVE FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE ALLEGED MISCONDUCT?

Any interested party may file a complaint and there is no requirement that the complainant have first-hand knowledge of the alleged misconduct.  The complainant should provide detailed information sufficient to allow the Department to make a determination whether the complaint is legally sufficient to proceed.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT ON FILING A COMPLAINT?

The Act does not contain a time limitation on filing a complaint.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I FILE A COMPLAINT?

An attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel will review the complaint to determine whether the perpetrator of the alleged misconduct is an educator as defined by the Act and whether the alleged misconduct fits within one of the grounds for discipline under the Act. You will receive notification from the Office of Chief Counsel as to whether they will be moving forward with an investigation of the complaint or whether the complaint will be dismissed.  As part of the investigation and prosecution of the case, you may be contacted by the Office of Chief Counsel.

WILL MY NAME BE RELEASED AS PART OF THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF THE CASE?

The existence of a complaint, as well as the investigation and prosecution of a case, is not made public until or unless public discipline is imposed by the Commission.  The identity of a complainant will remain confidential unless in those rare circumstances when the educator needs to know the identity to mount a defense or where the complainant is a witness in a hearing.

HOW LONG WILL AN INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF A CASE TAKE?

The length of an investigation and prosecution depends on the facts of each case. 

WILL I HAVE TO TESTIFY AT A HEARING?

Many cases are resolved without hearing, but in some cases hearings are necessary.  Depending on your involvement in the factual case and the prosecution strategy, the Department may ask you to testify under oath at an administrative hearing.

WHAT TYPES OF SANCTIONS CAN THE COMMISSION IMPOSE?

The types of sanctions authorized under the Act include, private and/or public reprimands, suspensions of a stated or indefinite duration often with conditions, revocations, and surrenders (voluntary revocations).  The Commission may also impose fines and fees.
The overall purposes of the educator discipline system and the Commission’s responsibility in imposing sanctions are protecting the public from educators who are unfit to discharge their professional duties and ensuring the safety and security of students and others in Pennsylvania’s schools; preserving the integrity and reputation of the teaching profession and the public’s confidence in the profession; declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and performance; determining the continued fitness of an educator to remain in the profession and, whenever possible, rehabilitating the educator; and deterring further unethical conduct. 
The discipline, if any, to be imposed in a particular case will depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case, will be fashioned in light of the purposes of educator discipline set forth above, and will take into account aggravating or mitigating circumstances.  The Commission strives to ensure that similar violations result in similar outcomes and that the sanction or combination of sanctions that it decides to impose is both sufficient and no more than is necessary to achieve the purposes of sanctions.  When applying these principles and crafting appropriate sanctions, the Commission may consider one or more of the following factors, as it deems appropriate:
  • The seriousness and circumstances surrounding the misconduct;
  • The extent, severity, and imminence of any danger to students, other educators or the public;
  • Whether the misconduct involved sexual misconduct or sexual abuse or exploitation; 
  • The status of the victim, if any, including the victim’s age or special vulnerability;
  • The harm or adverse impact to students or other persons;
  • The harm or adverse impact to the educator’s employer and to the profession; 
  • If the misconduct or violation is an isolated occurrence, part of a continuing pattern, or one of a series of incidents; 
  • The educator’s state of mind at the time of the misconduct (i.e., negligent, reckless, intentional);
  • The pecuniary benefit or other gain inuring to the educator by virtue of the misconduct;
  • Whether the conduct was criminal in nature;
  • The likelihood of a recurrence of the misconduct or violation;
  • The age and level of maturity of the students served by the educator;
  • The danger that students will imitate the educator’s behavior or use it as a model;
  • The educator’s level of experience;
  • The educator’s past performance and performance following the misconduct or violation; 
  • The educator’s prior disciplinary record, including warnings, or absence of a prior disciplinary record; 
  • Timely good faith effort to make restitution or to rectify the consequences of the misconduct;
  • Meaningful and sustained period of successful rehabilitation;
  • Impositions of other penalties or sanctions, including local disciplinary action;
  • The educators attitude and conduct during the disciplinary proceedings; 
  • The deterrence impact of the sanction;
  • Penalties imposed in other cases for similar violations; or 
  • Any other extenuating circumstances or other factors bearing on the appropriate nature of a disciplinary sanction.

WHERE CAN I LOOK UP CASES WHERE DISCIPLINE HAS BEEN IMPOSED?

Discipline is imposed by virtue of a Commission decision or a settlement agreement entered into between the educator and the Department and approved by the Commission.  All public discipline is reported on the Department’s website at Notification of Certification Actions
In addition, opinions of the Commission can be found on the Commission’s website.  Members of the public may also look up the certification record of any educator, which includes a notation when the educator has received public discipline against his or her certification or employment eligibility.  Educator Lookup
Finally, each year the Commission publishes an Annual Report that lists in detail every educator publically disciplined with information on the sanction imposed and the grounds for discipline.

IF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT FILING A COMPLAINT, WHO SHOULD I CONTACT?

For questions about filing a complaint, please contact the Office of Chief Counsel at 717 787-5500.