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What does it take to be a substitute teacher in Utah?

Posted at 10:18 PM, Dec 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-03 00:21:10-05

SALT LAKE CITY — After a substitute teacher in the Alpine School District was accused of berating a 5th-grade student, FOX 13 is investigating what is required of fill-in teachers before they are allowed in the classroom.

The Utah State Board of Education presented these rules in the Utah Administrative Code that school districts must follow.

All substitutes are required to pass a criminal background check, and preference is supposed to be given to those with teaching licenses or college degrees, although a degree is not required.

“We ask them to give priority to those,” said Ben Rasmussen, the Director of Law and Practices for the Board. “It’s hard enough to find teachers that have those qualifications, so I think the board is realistic in knowing its not always easy to find substitutes that meet those criteria.”

The state board gives districts flexibility in who they can hire. Some of that flexibility is allowed because of a teacher shortage.

“We give local boards a lot of discretion with how they want to run things,” Rasmussen said. “We basically tell every LEA (local education association) or school district they need a policy on how to do this and set those guidelines.”

Some districts, like the Alpine School District, contract with outside companies, like Kelly Educational Staffing to provide substitute teachers.

“Outside staffing are used by a large percentage of our schools,” Rasmussen said.

FOX 13 reached out to several districts and found the Davis, Jordan, Granite and Canyons districts each have their own pool of substitutes. They do not use outside staffing companies to provide subs.

The Canyons district told FOX 13 that any substitute the district hires who isn’t licensed must earn a “substitute diploma” through a program at Utah State University. The training lasts about 10 hours.

The Ogden School district contracts with a company called ESS. The district said it no longer utilizes Kelly Staffing, but did not elaborate as to why.

Individual districts are tasked with policing and managing their substitutes, and the state does not track any reprimands an individual fill-in teacher may receive.

“Discipline for substitutes is handled by the local districts and it doesn’t come to our level, usually,” Rasmussen said.

Any changes in oversight of substitutes would have to come from the State Board of Education or the Utah Legislature.