State ethics commission approves alternative teaching authorizations, revokes two educator licenses

(UPDATED, Dec. 7, with details on credential requirement extensions.)

A state commission that oversees educator certifications and ethics complaints approved dozens of alternative teaching authorizations and revoked two teacher licenses Thursday.

The 18-member Idaho Professional Standards Commission granted 51 educator applications for Idaho K-12 teacher applicants.

Idaho already allows teachers to obtain licensure through alternative routes to the classroom, such as Teach for America or the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. Much of Thursday’s meeting revolved around applicants who say they couldn’t meet testing and course requirements for their credentials because of the pandemic or personal health issues.

Commissioners extended time requirements for these applicants to complete their requirements. The decisions extended the time for applicants to complete their credential requirements by one school year, ending next August, said State Department of Education spokesperson Kris Rodine in an email Tuesday. Rodine said no requirements were reduced.

The commission tabled one application and declined to offer alternative authorization to another applicant who didn’t teach in the certificate area under consideration.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s teacher license revocations included a three-month suspension for a former Salmon teacher who quit during her contract and permanent suspension for a former educator convicted of violent crimes nearly a decade ago.

Ryan J. Bryson, a licensed math instructor and licensed principal and superintendent, pled guilty in 2013 to aggravated battery.

The case had already made its way through previous licensing hearings, but a new Idaho law prompted the commission to reconsider the matter Thursday.

The commission years ago prohibited Bryson from reapplying for teaching licenses until after his criminal probation. In 2016, a judge suspended his probation and reduced the charges to misdemeanors. His teaching certificate was soon reinstated.

A change to Idaho law last year requires professional licenses to be permanently revoked for people convicted of certain felonies, including aggravated battery. The law took effect July 2020 and applies retroactively.

Bryson was entitled to a hearing where officials could grant an exception to the new state law. Annette Schwab, a state education ethics specialist, told commissioners that Bryson originally expressed interest in a hearing but changed his mind. Bryson did not voluntarily surrender his teaching certificate, Schwab said, which required the board to again take up issues related to his license.

The commission voted unanimously to permanently revoke Bryson’s license. Several board members recused themselves from the vote or did not reply when called upon. The meeting was held partially over the Zoom teleconference app.

Bryson can still request a hearing.

The Idaho Professional Standards Commission enforces Idaho rules and standards for K-12 teachers and administrators. It is composed mostly of teachers and school administrators from across Idaho.

The commission closed 26 cases and issued 16 disciplinary actions in 2019-2020, according to an annual internal report. About 32% of the commission’s cases during 2019-20 dealt with inappropriate or sexual misconduct with students.

The commission disciplined 25 of the state’s 22,000 certified educators in 2018-19.

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