Montana is what is referred to as a “local control state,” with a great deal of deference given to locally-elected school boards in the operation of their districts. Under Article X, Part X, Section 8 of the Montana Constitution, “[t]he supervision and control of schools in each district shall be vested in a board of trustees to be elected as provided by law.” Concerns about an educator should start out by following the local school district’s grievance policy. Districts may have a specific policy on this procedure, but this will generally mean meeting with the educator, then, as necessary, appealing up through the school and district administrations until finally sharing your concerns with the local school board if the issue has not been previously resolved.
However, if issues persist after attempting to resolve concerns at the local level, the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) may be contacted in an attempt to address the matter.
As the licensing agency for educators in Montana, the OPI has investigative authority to ensure that all licensed educators in Montana are held to the highest standards of professional conduct. The only concerns which the OPI is empowered by statute to investigate are found in the Montana Code Annotated at § 20-4-110(1). These concerns are:
- making any statement of material fact in applying for a certificate that the applicant knows to be false;
- any reason that would have required or authorized the denial of the teacher, administrator, or specialist certificate to the person if it had been known at the time the certificate was issued;
- gross neglect of duty;
- conviction of, entry of a guilty verdict, a plea of guilty, or a plea of no contest to a criminal offense involving moral turpitude in this state or any other state or country;
- immoral conduct related to the teaching profession; [for additional guidance on what may constitute “immoral conduct related to the teaching profession, please look to Admin. R. Mont. 10.57.601A.]
- substantial and material nonperformance of the employment contract between the teacher, administrator, or specialist and the trustees of a school or school district without good cause or the written consent of the trustees; or
- denial, revocation, suspension, or surrender of a teacher, administrator, or specialist certificate in another state for any reason constituting grounds for similar action in this state.
If your concerns about an educator are listed above, a complaint may be filed with the OPI. The OPI does not represent complainants, but will investigate concerns raised to it in a timely manner. If after an investigation the OPI determines that it has sufficient evidence to advocate for disciplinary action against a licensee, the OPI will present its evidence and recommendations to the Board of Public Education, which has the ultimate decision authority on such matters. Please click this LINK to learn more about the policies and procedures that the OPI and BPE follow when investigating a licensee.
To file a complaint with the OPI, please complete [this] form (please use [this] document if you require additional space) and send it, as well as any supplementary evidence, to:
- Legal Division
- Montana Office of Public Instruction
- P.O. Box 202501
- Helena, MT 59620
Should you have any questions about this process or require any assistance completing documentation, please do not hesitate to contact the Legal Division at (406) 444-4402 and someone will provide whatever clarification or help you need.