Department of Education Investigation Representation
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Has the Florida Department of Education (DOE) decided to start an investigation against you? If the answer is yes, there are important things that you need to know!
I’m Steve Rossi and I have been an attorney for over 30 years. I am a former prosecutor and FBI Agent. I am board certified in criminal trial law. I was the attorney for the sixth largest teachers union in the country. Together with my law office team, we have dealt with a variety of cases at the Department of Education involving teachers and administrators.
From my years of experience dealing with DOE procedures, investigators and government attorneys, I came up with “Steve Rossi’s Five Stages of a DOE Investigation.” I did this to create a helpful way for my clients to better understand the process. I have a plan and my team and I are prepared to defend you at each stage of your investigation. I take a proactive approach, using the best strategies I have learned from dealing with a variety of cases. Because ultimately, you could face a possible penalty where your certification is revoked FOREVER.
There are instances where a school district or school has found the employee not guilty or responsible for any wrongdoing; however, when the DOE got the case they wanted the employee to have their certificate permanently revoked! A DOE investigation is clearly serious. Because, here you job is not just in jeopardy but your ability to continue to work elsewhere may now be in peril. It is prudent to retain an experienced school and education law attorney ASAP in the process. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the process and answer questions that you may have. Oftentimes, the DOE investigation will preclude you from obtaining a position elsewhere. Innocent until proven guilty you say? Not here my friend.
So what can you expect to find in a DOE investigation? Here are the five stages. Keep in mind this is a “general” overview. There are additional subparts and procedures that an experienced education attorney, such as myself, would need to go over with you depending on your specific facts.
Stage 1. The certified letter from the DOE. Sorry, but let’s deal with it shall we? You may or may not have known this was coming. This starts the process. This is what puts you on notice that your certification, in other words, your license is now under investigation. Oftentimes when this happens you may not be able to secure a position of employment in another school district because you are now “under investigation by the DOE.” If you provide information to the DOE it can put you at further risk. Another reason to have an experienced education attorney deal with them.
Stage 2. The DOE investigator investigates your case. This can take some time depending on how complex the issue is and if the school or school district where you were working did their own investigation or not. A common mistake that people make is that they assume if the school or school district found that they did nothing wrong or gave them a small consequence that the DOE will do the same. WRONG WRONG WRONG Did I say this is wrong? The DOE makes their own determination and does not need to follow what the school district or school did in your case. Even if you resigned your position at the school or school district level, this does not mean that the DOE will not do an investigation on you later. Even if the school or school district found in your favor, the DOE can still take action against you! Double Jeopardy you say? Good idea but it does not apply here. EVEN ASSUMING THE SAME EXACT FACTS, the DOE still have jurisdiction over you because you have your certificate with them. Example: A teacher with over 25 years of a spotless record is accused of improper contact with a student. Child Protective Services (CPS) does an investigation and finds that the matter is unfounded. The teacher is arrested and fights it all the way and goes to jury trial. The Jury find the teacher not guilty of anything. The school or school district does their own investigation, and finds that the teacher did nothing wrong. The parents sue the teacher and a judge throws out the case based on lack of evidence. The DOE gets the case and decides to do an investigation on the teacher even though everyone else ruled in the teachers favor!
Stage 3. The informal conference. This conference is to present, if you wish, any information to the DOE for them to consider in your regard essentially. It is better to have an attorney present this information on your behalf. What an attorney says is not considered evidence.
Stage 4. The Commissioner of Education decides if there is sufficient evidence to go forward in the case or not. If there is probable cause to go forward it proceeds to the next stage. We have been able to get cases dropped at this point depending on the facts and evidence and law.
Stage 5. You can go to a formal hearing, informal hearing or try to resolve the matter with the DOE and the Education Practices Commission (EPC)
The above is a very general overview. There are other factors that can interplay with this. You should seek out an education attorney that has education law experience dealing with these type of matters. This article is not meant to be relied upon as legal advice. Laws and policies can change. Seek an experienced attorney for the most current and up to date information to assist you in this or any legal matter. Call us for a FREE CONSULTATION.