The State Board of Education has authority over the issuance, denial, suspension and revocation of teacher and administrator license for preK-12 education. The State Board does not have authority to make employment decisions. Before a teacher or administrator's license is suspended or revoked, a local education agency (school district) usually terminates or accepts the resignation of that teacher or administrator.
Employment Actions by Local Education Agencies (LEAs)
LEAs have complete authority over personnel issues regarding school and district employees. Local board members are elected officials. (TCA § 49-2-201). Local boards of education employ the director. (TCA § 49-2-301). Directors oversee all district employees under the direction of the local board of education. (TCA § 49-2-301).
Teacher employment standards are outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-501 (definitions of terms) and 49-5-511 (grounds for termination of tenured teachers). TCA § 49-5-1001 requires all Tennessee teachers to follow the Teacher Code of Ethics Failure to do so may constitute "unprofessional conduct" and result in termination of a tenured teacher.
Licensure Actions by the State Board of Education
In addition to constituting grounds for employment action by an LEA, certain misconduct may be grounds for licensed teachers or administrators to lose their licenses. It may also be grounds for teacher license applicants to have their application denied.
Tenn. Code Ann. 49-1-302(a)(5)(A)(ii) gives the State Board the duty and power to "adopt policies governing ... [t]he revocation of licenses and certificates." 49-5-108(a) gives the State Board "[c]omplete jurisdiction over the issuance and administration of licenses . . . ."
The general public can see the license status of any individual online: https://apps.tn.gov/eli. If a license application is denied, or a current license suspended, revoked or voluntarily surrendered, that status will appear in that database. Superintendents have access to the "Official Use" database on that page, so they can see licenses of individuals who are being investigated for possible action ("flagged" licenses).
Teachers or administrators may have their licenses automatically revoked following conviction of certain violent offenses and felony drug offenses. State Board of Education Rule 0520-2-4-.01(9) outlines other reasons why applicants, teachers or administrators may have applications denied or current licenses suspended or revoked. (TCA § 49-5-417)
1. Conviction of a felony,
2. Conviction of possession of narcotics,
3. Being on school premises or at a school-related activity involving students while documented as being under the influence of, possessing or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs,
4. Falsification or alteration of a license or documentation required for licensure,
5. Denial, suspension or revocation of a license or certificate in another jurisdiction for reasons which would justify denial, suspension or revocation under this rule, or
6. Other good cause. Other good cause shall be construed to include noncompliance with security guidelines for TCAP or successor tests pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-1-607, default on a student loan pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-5-108(d)(2) or failure to report under part (e).
For purposes of [license denial, suspension or revocation], “conviction” includes conviction on a plea of guilty, a plea of [no contest] or an order granting pre-trial diversion.
State Board Procedure for Possible Denial, Suspension or Revocation of Licenses
The procedure for review of cases which may lead to actions against a teacher or administrator license is outlined in Board Policy 5.501. Included with the policy is a flowchart showing how cases proceed.
Local superintendents ("directors") are required to report to the Office of Teacher Licensing whenever a licensed teacher or administrator is suspended, terminated or resigns, following allegations which, if substantiated, could constitute grounds for suspension or revocation of a license. Directors who fail to report according to the rule may have any teacher or administrator license they hold suspended or revoked.
At that point, a teacher or administrator license is "flagged" on a database maintained by the Office of Teacher Licensing. Directors of LEAs have access to this database. The State Board of Education then begins its review of the case. While the case is pending before the State Board, the file remains flagged.
Assume, for example, a teacher resigned following an arrest for statutory rape (something that constitute grounds for license revocation. The teacher goes to another school district and applies for a job. The director of the hiring district can look on the database and see if the teacher's license has been flagged. If so, the director can contact the Office of Teacher Licensing or the State Board and find out the status of the case involving the teacher.
If the State Board decides to seek suspension or revocation of a license, the individual may request a hearing before an administrative judge sitting on behalf of the Board.
If the State Board decides not to take any action against the license, the file is "unflagged" on the database maintained by the Office of Teacher Licensing.
If the State Board (or a judge sitting on behalf of the Board) denies, suspends or revokes a license, that action is recorded on a national database of teacher licensure actions, maintained by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). The Office of Teacher Licensing regularly reviews this database to determine if any current teachers or administrators or applicants have had action taken against their licenses in other states.
Pursuant to the State Board Rule, "[a] person whose license has been denied, suspended or revoked may not serve as a volunteer or be employed, directly or indirectly, as an educator, paraprofessional, aide, substitute teacher or in any other position during the period of the denial, suspension or revocation."
Forms for Licensure Actions
SBE Rule 0520-2-4-.01(9) (the relevant portion begins on page 2).
Board Policy 5.501 - Procedure for Denial, Suspension and Revocation of Licenses
Board Policy 5.500 - Procedure for License Restoration Requests