OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill that protects due process for teachers, addressing a loophole in existing statutes that can lead to a teacher being fired without due process.
Senate Bill 13, written by Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, was unanimously passed by the State Senate on Monday.
The State Board of Education currently has the power to suspend a teacher’s teaching certificate on an emergency basis, without a hearing, if that teacher is accused of and charged with a crime.
A school district can fire the teacher once the certificate is suspended because a local district cannot employ a teacher who doesn’t have a valid teaching certificate, according to a Senate Communications Division news release
“Senate Bill 13 isn’t about protecting an educator who is guilty of a crime—it’s about due process,” Stanley said. “Our legal system is based on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but under current law, teachers may find themselves presumed guilty without any due process, and it can cost them their career, even if they’re innocent. This legislation is simply about ensuring that due process.”
The bill allows the State Board of Education to still suspend certification, which enables school districts to place an accused teacher on administrative leave. But a teacher cannot be fired unless their teaching certificate was revoked, which can only happen after a required hearing by the State Board.
The American Federation of Teachers-Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Oklahoma State Department of Education support the bill, according to the news release.
Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, who serves as the House Education Chair, is the House principal author of the bill.