Created in 2001, the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA) assumed the responsibilities of two existing Education Department programs (the Teacher Moral Character Unit and the Teacher Tenure Hearing Unit) and the responsibility for implementing the new fingerprint-supported criminal history background checks mandated by the SAVE Law. Given the breadth of OSPRA’s mandate, it is staffed with attorneys, investigators, and a variety of clerical and support staff critical to its mission.
- Educator Discipline – All educators in New York State must have good moral character. OSPRA receives complaints from a variety of sources concerning allegations about the moral character of individuals who hold or who are applicants for New York State teaching certificates. Under Part 83 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, school district superintendents have a mandatory obligation to report certain behavior to the Department. OSPRA will undertake an investigation of any allegation that raises a substantial question of moral character, and make a determination about whether disciplinary action is warranted. Penalties for individuals who lack good moral character range from fine and suspension, to revocation of a teaching certificate.
- Teacher Tenure Hearings - Tenured educators have the right to retain their positions and may only be terminated if there is “just cause” pursuant to Education Law §3020. The rules specifying the process for terminating a tenured educator are set forth in Education Law §3020-a. Education Law §3020-a provides for termination only after a full due process hearing that gives the educator the opportunity to be heard. OSPRA provides administrative support to the §3020-a process.
- Fingerprinting – Pursuant to the SAVE Law (Chapter 180 of the Laws of 2000), all individuals seeking employment in a school setting and all applicants for certification must undergo a fingerprint-supported criminal history background check. OSPRA manages this process through a web-based application where individuals can submit an electronic application and digital fingerprint images, and schools can apply for and receive fingerprint clearance information instantly. OSPRA conducts investigations into any issue that may raise a question about an individual’s ability to work in a school setting or to be eligible for certification, and affords due process to applicants when it is the Department’s intention to deny clearance for employment.