Professional Rights and Responsibilities

Educators must conduct themselves in a professional manner when dealing with students, administrators and, above all, their fellow professionals. Conflict and professional disagreement can and will happen in the workplace, but it doesn't have to be negative or damaging. When members respect each other, they continue to gain respect from parents, students, administrators and the public.

See website for more information about teachers' rights

You have rights
      to a safe environment
      to voice your opinions
      to fair treatment
      to one year of induction with a mentor
      to a proper assignment, i.e. within your area of certification
      to assign grades to students. within policies of a school districts
      to a 30-minute duty-free lunch break.

As a member of a bargaining unit, teachers have rights contained in local contracts.

Your Responsibilities
      Follow safety rules
      Respect the opinion of others
      Treat others fairly
      Care for all school materials
      Observe child abuse and bullying laws
      Uphold requirements of the Professional Standards and Practices Act
      Keep teaching certificate valid and active
      Behave in a manner consistent with MTA's Code of Ethics

Professional Rights and Responsibilities (PR&R) Commission
MTA established a Professional Rights and Responsibilities Commission to provide members with several resources to foster positive, productive workplaces and local associations. The Commission is committed to promoting professional conduct, administering the MTA Code of Ethics of the Education Profession, assisting in the reduction of member conflicts, and guaranteeing Association due process


Workers have the right, under both State (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 150E) and Federal Law (1975 United States Supreme Court decision, NLRB v. Weingarten, Inc.,) to have a union representative present when the employer is seeking information about the workers' conduct. The worker must reasonably believe discipline could result. The insistence on having a representative present is considered concerted protected activity, and the law precludes the employer from taking action against the worker for exercising this right. These rights are based upon private and public sector collective bargaining laws.

What Situations Are Covered?
A meeting called by the employer to find out facts about what has happened, or to have the worker explain his/her side of the story. This is the clearest example where the employer is “investigating.”

A meeting or interview to investigate an employee's allegedly inadequate work performance or other misconduct where discipline of any kind is  a possible result.

A meeting where the employee is required to explain or defend his/her conduct in a situation which the employee reasonably fears could affect his/her working conditions or job security. (note that it is not clear whether this would include non-disciplinary situations, such as Reductions in Force (RIF's) but if a situation occurs that you feel could impact your employment, then you are entitled to union representation.

A meeting where  the employer requests a written answer to questions about a workers' conduct.

A meeting where the employer has not yet decided if they will take action of a disciplinary nature.

Do not be shy about this. Protect yourself!

What Is Not Covered?
Where the meeting or discussion is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training, or needed corrections.

Where the purpose of the meeting is to inform the employee about a disciplinary decision that has already been made and no information is sought from the employee.

Where the employer has clearly and overtly assured the employee, prior to the interview, that no discipline or adverse consequences will result from the interview.

Where the employee initiates further discussion after the employer has notified the employees of disciplinary action.

Where the employee initiates the discussion and in effect, waives his/her rights under the law.

When the employer has decided  to take an action and is informing the employee of the decision.

The employee must assert the right to have a union representative attend.
The employer has no obligation to inform the employee of his/her right to representation.

Once the employee raises their Weingarten Rights, what must the employer do?
1.) Grant the request and delay the meeting until a representative arrives and can consult with the employee.
2.) Discontinue the meeting.
3.) Permit the employee to choose to continue the interview unrepresented or forego the interview entirely.

An employee may waive his/her right.
Also, if the interview is terminated, the employer may make its decision without input from the employee.
Even under Weingarten, absent possible criminal implications, the employee has no general right to refuse to answer questions. Such actions may, however, give rise to an allegation against the employee of insubordination.

What if the matter involves an allegation of a possible crime or neglect issue under DSS?
If the matter involves issues of a legal nature, such as a possible criminal issue or an investigation by DSS, if you are a union member, you should notify the WSEA Presidents and/or Grievance Chairwoman at once so that legal representation can be obtained through the MTA. If you are not a union member you should notify your own attorney and seek advice.

Communications between union officials and members are not privileged.

What should you do if you encounter a  situation?
If  you are called into a meeting with an administrator and you begin to feel that the discussion is turning into a disciplinary meeting, you should follow these precautionary steps to protect your rights. Your contract and your union can help protect you against unfair disciplinary action. The outcome of any dispute concerning legal or contractual rights depends largely on precautions taken at the very beginning of the action.

Be familiar with the following steps:
Immediately request an adjournment of the meeting until you arrange to have an Association representative with you. You have the right to Association representation.  Run, do not walk, to discuss the matter with your building rep. After a discussion, the building rep  will help sort out the plan of action. If necessary, the building rep will then refer your situation to the grievance chairman. The Grievance Chain will then relay information to the Association president. Do not make any spontaneous replies to charges that will give them evidence against you.

Get Association advice early - don't "wait to see what happens." Call your Association president. He or she will in turn immediately contact the MTA rep. The MTA rep, in turn, will asses your case and determine what needs to be done to insure that your rights are protected. Your MTA rep will also ensure that you, as a member, have the benefit of the services of other MTA divisions if necessary. MTA legal assistance, if necessary, is available to you as a dues-paying member, and can save you thousands of dollars in the event it is necessary.

Do not sign or submit to your administrator or board any written statements that have not been reviewed by your MTA rep. Be sure to retain copies of an written statements you receive, all correspondence related to your case, and postmarked envelopes containing correspondence mailed to you in connection with the case.

You must be accompanied to the administrator's office by an Association representative. This is usually the Association president and/or the MTA rep. The person accompanying you may need to testify for you at future hearings or in court proceedings. If the school official refuses to allow a witness to enter the meeting, note that she/he was refused   admittance to the meeting and request the she/he be willing to testify at a later time that she/he was refused entry into the meeting. After any meeting, immediately write a report of what transpired. Keep this report for your records.

Do not agree to proposals offered to you by the administration or other representatives of the employer until you have discussed the proposal with the MTA rep who is handling your case. The MTA rep knows the specific facts of your case and your contractual/legal rights.

If it is suggested that you resign, do not under any circumstances submit a resignation, without first conferring with your MTA rep. Resignation eliminates your unemployment compensation benefits.

Do not make any public statements about your case. Casual conversation in the teacher's room with other employees, casual conversation with neighbors and friends can become public statements that come back to harm you and your case.

Evaluation Process
As a new or experienced teacher you will be evaluated by your principal or supervisor to ensure your teaching is aligned with school and state standards. It is important to review the contract provisions governing teacher evaluations with your local Association WSEA building representative. Keep a record of all observations, letters, memos, and notes — both positive and negative — throughout your years of teaching. It is particularly important to document how you change your classroom practices if informed of a problem

A. Procedures. Evaluation of a teacher's performance shall be conducted in accordance with procedures approved by the WSEA contact. By September 15th the principal of each school or other administrative evaluators will advise all teachers who will evaluate the teacher.

B. Observations (see contract pages Article 17 for educators with /without professional status)

C. Report. Teachers will be given a copy of every evaluation report and shall be entitled to request a conference with the evaluator prior to submission of the report to the teacher's central office file. If a teacher receives an  unsatisfactory evaluation he/she may submit a rebuttal letter to the evaluator within 5 days of the written observation report.

How to obtain legal services from MTA

To be eligible for legal services from MTA, you must be an MTA member by January 1 of the year in which you are seeking legal services.The kind of legal services provided by MTA and the procedure for obtaining legal services is governed by the MTA Legal Services Policy.

If you have an employment-related problem for which you need assistance, the first thing you should do is contact your local association president. Your president will be able to determine whether the appropriate person to help you deal with your problem is someone from the association or the MTA field representative assigned to your local or an MTA attorney.

In general, problems in dealing with students, parents or school district administrators will best be handled by the association and its field representative. Many members identify as legal issues problems which are actually issues under the collective bargaining agreement, or even difficulties which require assistance from the local but are not contract issues.For this reason, the procedure for obtaining legal services starts with the local president and field representative, because working together, local leaders and their MTA field representatives are able to solve appropriately many of the problems members have. However, if your problem involves issues which require the assistance of an attorney, your association president, in consultation with the assigned field representative, will make a request for legal services on your behalf.

To request legal services from MTA, your local president fills out a request for legal services describing your issue. The request for legal services should include as detailed a description of your problem as possible, as well as all relevant documents. The more information we have, the greater will be our understanding of the situation and our ability to assist expeditiously and efficiently. Requests for legal services are sent to the Division of Legal Services and reviewed to make sure the requirements of the Legal Services Policy have been met. First, the Division Coordinator checks to make sure that, where the request is for an attorney to be assigned to an indiviidual, the individual is a member of the MTA.The Legal Services Policy requires that an applicant for legal services have become a member of the local, MTA and NEA prior to January 1 of the membership year in which services are being requested.

After we check membership, the General Counsel reviews requests to assure that the services requested are covered by the Legal Services Policy and assigns an attorney. Members and locals then are sent letters from the General Counsel providing the name of the assigned attorney. If legal services are denied, the General Counsel sends a letter explaining why and describing the appeal process provided under the Legal Services Policy.

"How to Obtain Legal Services from MTA." No date. Massachusetts Teachers Association. Date accessed: 1 Jan 2006.

Requirements mandate districts have teacher orientation, induction and mentoring programs
This article is republished from the March 2001 issue of MTA Today. You are free to print and distribute it among your colleagues.

A Primer on New Teacher Orientation Induction, and Mentoring
by Kathie Skinner, PhD., Director, Center for Educational Quality and Professional Development, MTA

At the November 2000 Board of Education meeting, new certification regulations were adopted (603 CMR 7.0).
While in the past it was true that changes in certification regulations have little effect on current practitioners, the newly adopted requirement that every district must have an induction program for beginning teachers is of interest to both current practitioners and local leaders. There are three essential elements of such programs: orientation, induction, and mentoring.

Orientation: The purpose of orientation is for the beginning teacher - and the veteran teacher new to the district - to learn about "how we do things around here." Teacher orientation should focus on four key components: the community; school district policies and procedures; the curriculum; and the school.

The Community: New teachers should learn something about the socioeconomic conditions of the families served by the public schools; the local norms, customs, and values; the resources that exist within the community; and the special needs within the community. New teachers should be provided with a community map, information about housing, transportation, shopping, medical facilities, and social and religious organizations. A guided tour of the community with stops at points of interest might be offered by the chamber of commerce or the PTA/O.

School District: New teachers should be provided with a guided tour by teachers and/or administrators through such policies and procedures as: attendance policies, salaries and benefits, teacher evaluation process, legal rights and responsibilities, role of the teachers association, and administrative record keeping.

The Curriculum: New teachers should be introduced to the philosophy, purpose, aim and goals of the school curriculum. They should be provided with the scope and sequence and this should be explained by knowledgeable teachers/administrators. They should also be provided with curriculum guides and the curriculum framework(s) that governs their content area(s).

The School: New teachers should have a complete tour of the school in which they will work. The tour should focus on such things as: the available technology applications; getting audio visual equipment; location of all administrative forms; following fire drill procedures. New teachers should also be provided with the teachers' handbook and the student handbook - including the discipline policy and procedure. An administrator should spend some time going over questions related to student discipline, responding to student illnesses, and communicating with parents.

Induction Program: The purpose of beginning teacher induction is five-fold: to improve teaching performance; to increase retention; to promote personal and professional well-being; to transmit the culture; and to satisfy the requirements of certification.
The MTA Center for Educational Quality and Professional Development has been conducting a new teacher induction program entitled Case Study Seminars for Beginning Teachers in more than 20 school districts over the past 12 months. With some funding from the Massachusetts Department of Education, this program provides teachers in their first three years of practice with instruction in four key areas: classroom management; content-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment; differentiated instruction (which includes meeting the needs of the gifted and talented and those with special learning needs); and time management.

Mentoring Program: This element of induction focuses on a one-on-one relationship between a beginning teacher -- the protege -- and a trained veteran teacher -- the mentor. There are four essential components of a mentoring program: mentoring committee, mentor training, mentor-protege partnership, and classroom observation.

Mentor Committee: Every mentoring program must be overseen by a committee that should be representative of all of the groups who benefit from the program: central office administration, teachers' association, school leaders, new teachers, and mentors. The committee should have a chairperson who is responsible for setting meetings, keeping agendas and notes, and communicating with those outside the committee about its work.

Mentor Training: The certification regulations call for all new teachers to have a "trained" mentor. Training might consist of a week in the summer where mentors learn how to work with adult learners, practice the observation protocol to be used in the district, and learn about the confidentiality that must exist if there is to be trust between the mentor and the protege. This should be followed by monthly meetings of 2-3 hours where mentors can share experiences, seek assistance from colleagues, and learn more about the mentoring process.

Mentor-Protege Partnership: A protocol should be developed by the mentor committee that provides guidance for matching up each mentor with a protege. In districts where the mentor is released full- or half-time, the protocol should determine the number of new teachers the mentor will guide through the first year of teaching; the number of observations that should be conducted; and any other requirements. Matching mentor to protege is an essential component; if this is not done well, the program may fail. The mentor and protege should set up a schedule of meeting times on a regular basis. The mentor should use the training guidance - which generally focuses on new activities for the beginning teacher to complete during each month of the first year of school.

Classroom Observation: The certification regulations call for release time for mentors and new teachers to observe each other. Mentors should be trained and have adequate practice in the observation protocol to be used. However, it is advised that there be a pre-conference meeting at which the new teacher should identify at least one area of concern for the mentor to focus on. The mentor should take notes during the observation that focus on the area of concern but also on curriculum and instruction in general. A post-conference meeting should follow that covers the observations of the mentor and the concerns of the protege.
Attracting and retaining qualified new teachers is in everyone's best interest. It is obvious that creating an orientation-induction-mentoring program is complex and requires the cooperation of teachers and administrators within a school district. As a basis for the conversation that should occur at the district level, the applicable regulations follow.
From Massachusetts Department of Education Regulations (603 CMR 7.00)
Section 7.02: Definitions
Induction Program: a planned program of professional support for new teachers, provided by the school district, including orientation, opportunities for classroom observation and conferencing, peer group meetings, and preparation for performance assessment. An induction program should be an integral part of a school district's professional development plan.
Mentor: an educator who holds a professional [standard] license and who has been trained to assist beginning teachers/administrators with their professional responsibilities and general school/district procedures. A mentor may also assist an experienced teacher who is new to a school, subject area, or grade level or who is undertaking certification through National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
Section 7.12 Standards for Induction Programs for Teachers
Application: All school districts are required to provide an induction program for teachers in their first year of practice. Induction programs provide the structure that maximizes beginning teacher learning in the context of the classroom experience. New teachers learn from veteran teachers; schools increase the possibility of retaining strong, well-trained educators; and, most important, student achievement can be elevated. Guidelines based on the following standards will be provided by the Department.
Standards: All induction programs shall meet the following requirements:
An orientation program for beginning teachers and all other incoming teachers.
Assignment of all beginning teachers to a trained mentor within the first two weeks of teaching.
Assignment of a support team that shall consist of, but not be limited to, the mentor and an administrator qualified to evaluate teachers.
Release time for the mentor and beginning teacher to engage in regular classroom observations and other mentoring activities.
Assistance to the beginning teacher in developing materials that will be used to assess performance for the professional license.
Additional Requirements:
Submission of an annual report to the Department that includes information on:
Program activities
Number and complete list of beginning teachers served
Number and complete list of trained mentors.
Number of classroom observations made by mentors.
Number of hours mentors and beginning teachers spend with each other.
Hiring and retention rates for beginning teachers.
Participant satisfaction.
To further assist educators and districts, the Department of Education --with advice from major education associations, including MTA -- has developed Massachusetts Guidelines for Induction Programs. As of the publishing of this article the guidelines had not been released by Commissioner Driscoll. However, as soon as they are released, they will be sent to local association presidents and posted on the MTA web site.
Additional Information:
Mass DOE Teacher Induction Programs
Resources for this article:
A Better Beginning: Supporting and Mentoring New Teachers, Ed. Marge Scherer (ASCD, 1999)
How to Help Beginning Teachers Succeed, Stephen P. Gordon and Susan Maxey (ASCD, 2000)