Help and Advice
You may find yourself in a situation one day where your employment or professional reputation is threatened. What do you do when you are called into a meeting with administrators and the meeting turns accusatory?
Here is some practical advice:
Your administrator should notify you in advance of the purpose for the meeting.
Your administrator should advise you of your right to bring a silent observer to the meeting.
You must advise your administator if you plan to bring a silent observer.
You can request time before the meeting occurs to talk with an RNEA representative or Missouri NEA UniServ Director. The current UniServ Director Bob George (314.432.2425).
Remain calm and courteous.
Script a timeline concerning any incidents regarding the nature of the meeting. Include the names of any witnesses, statements that were made, etc. that you believe could be relevant. Do not provide a copy of this to anyone other than your RNEA Representative.
Listen carefully to any accusations. Take careful notes or have your RNEA Representative take notes.
Be very careful what you say and how you say it. Only answer direct questions. Do not volunteer additional information. If you are unsure of a response ask for additional time to organize your thoughts by asking for a break.
If you feel threatened make your feelings known.
- Do not discuss the nature of the meeting with anyone except your RNEA Representatives.
· Do not resign or sign any papers during the meeting.
· Do not admit guilt or accept blame.
· Do not make any public statements.
· Do not discuss the matter with anyone outside your RNEA Representative.
Teachers want what is best for the student and work collaboratively with everyone involved in IEP and 504 meetings. However, we are seeing an increase (nationwide and in Missouri) of attorneys being actively involved in IEP/504 conferences and civil lawsuits being filed. All members should be wary and seek advise from the RNEA or a UniServ Director before the conference if there are concerns.
All Missouri NEA members are protected with a $1 million liability insurance policy that includes discussions and implementation of IEP and 504 plans. The insurance will protect members named in a civil suit even if there is a finding of liability as long as there was no intent on the part of the member to ignore or go against the plan. The Rockwood School District's liability insurance policy may coordinate with the member's policy if the district makes the decision to include the member. Teachers are not the party who determines if they are included in the district's policy. The NEA policy will cover the member even if the school district does not.
What should I do?
If you are informed there will be an attorney present at an IEP/504 conference take the issue seriously. Do not attend the conference without first contacting the RNEA or your UniServ director. Do not make any statements during the conference or put anything in writing without sound advice. You may request representation (an advocate) be present with you in such a meeting. Rockwood policy is silent on your right to representation. The district may deny your request but you should ask for representation in such instances.
If, during the conference, anyone mentions the possibility of a lawsuit, you should make every attempt to leave the conference immediately and receive advice from the RNEA or your UniServ director. If the climate of the conference becomes hostile and confrontational you should also leave. Never disobey a directive by an administrator that you stay or attend the meeting, but strongly object and contact the RNEA or your UniServ director as soon as possible.
Teachers have always been fair game to be hotlined to DFS and/or reported to the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction. Teachers can be reported for alleged abuse and for not reporting alleged abuse.
A single DFS hotline could result in four actions against an educator: 1. a criminal investigation conducted by the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction, 2. a DFS investigation, 3. a school district investigation, and/or 4. a civil lawsuit.
Often many of these occur at the same time.
Your Rights when Investigated
If you are informed of a possible DFS compliant against you, take the issue seriously. Do not make any statements to any investigator (administrator, DFS personnel, law enforcement official, etc.) without first contacting your Missouri NEA UniServ Director. You have the right to refuse to meet with the investigator or delay the meeting until you have representation.
If you are asked to provide a written statement, say you will comply with the request as soon as your representation has the opportunity to review it. Never turn in a written statement and/or make verbal statements without prior advice of a UniServ Director. These statements can be used against you in civil and criminal proceedings.
If the Charges are Criminal
If there is a criminal/law enforcement investigation someone (often the school district) has provided them information about the possibility of abuse.
An investigator may appear at school or your home without warning. Remember, even in these instances, do not make any statements without representation.
Too often educators are eager to make statements to prove their innocence. It is more prudent to set up a meeting with the investigator once you have discussed the matter with your UniServ Director.
The school district may elect to suspend you (always with pay) while the investigation is conducted.
If criminal charges are alleged, you will be advised to hire your own attorney. If the charges are dropped, or you are found innocent of the charges, your legal fees will be reimbursed through your $1 million liability insurance policy. However, if you are found guilty your legal fees will not be reimbursed.
If DFS Investigates
If you are investigated by DFS, you will be contacted by one of the Division's Out of Home social workers. Again, contact the RNEA or your UniServ director and refuse to meet until you have representation. The RNEA and or your UniServ director will review your statement and help you prepare for the meeting. In more complex cases your case may be referred to Missouri NEA legal services.
If the School District Investigates
The school district may investigate a charge in cooperation with DFS or on its own. The school district may pursue action against an educator (up to and including termination) even if the criminal and or DFS investigation found insufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Again, contact the RNEA or your UniServ director, and refuse to meet until you have representation. You have the right to a representative in any potential employment-related meetings, and your case may be referred to Missouri NEA legal services.
If Named in a Civil Lawsuit
Finally, you may be named in a civil lawsuit. Your MNEA membership includes a $1 million personal liability insurance for employment -related lawsuits. Should you receive an indication of a lawsuit, contact your UniServ Director immediately. While it is true that the school district has liability insurance, it is the school district and their insurance company that will decide to cover you. The school district could find you negligent or out-of-compliance with district policy and refuse to cover you. Your NEA liability insurance will cover you regardless of the district's decision.
- 4 Observations (minimum of 20 minutes unscheduled)
- First on to be completed by October 1
- Second one completed by November 1
- Summative due to Human Resources by March 10
- New evaluation begins immediately
Tenured (First Permanent and Permanent)
- Evaluation cycle of three years
- A minimum of three observations (scheduled or unscheduled) shall be conducted during teacher's initial year of tenure evaluation cycle.
- One observation (scheduled or unscheduled) shall be conducted each of the remaining years.
- Teacher may request that one of these during the three year cycle be scheduled.
Conferencing on Observation - Probationary and Tenured
- Occur within two school days after data is documented.
- If more than five attendance days (days when supervisor and teacher are at school) transpire between observation and conference , either party may reject and request another observation.
- Either party may within five-calender days make written comments to the report.
Terms in the Evaluation Process
- Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation is a process for professional improvement which includes identifying performance expectations,documenting performance, conferencing about performance, developing plans to improve performance and making personnel decisions based upon performance.
- Formative Phase is the on-going process of data collection, documentation,conferencing and growth plans designed to promote professional development. The most common process used during the formative phase is the classroom observation.
- Summative Phase is the process of making professional judgments about the performance for the purpose of personnel decision-making. (Commonly called the Teacher Evaluation Instrument TEI)
- Focused Improvement Plan (FIP) is the form used to design strategies for assisting teachers who are not demonstrating satisfactory performance.