Many people who contact me about an expungement are concerned about their ability to be a teacher in the public school system of Florida. In this post I try to explain what the Florida law states regarding the employment of teachers as it relates to past criminal records. You may also want to read my post on obtaining public employment with a criminal record.
Can You Teach With A Criminal Record
Florida has strict guidelines for those who want to teach. Part of being a teacher in Florida will require you to have periodic background checks. Whether a past or future arrest will affect your career depends on the nature of the charge and the outcome of your case.
Prerequisites to Teach
The State Board of Education requires that, to be eligible for employment, the following positions hold a Certificate:
- School Supervisor
- School Principal
- Library Media Specialist
- School Counselor
- Athletic Coach
- Other position in which the employee serves in an instructional capacity.
There may be differences in the educational background needed for each of those positions (see, section 1012.55, Florida Statutes) and no one seeking a certificate can have a conviction for certain specified crimes. See, section 1012.315, Florida Statutes.
Once You Have a Teaching Certificate
Even if you have a teaching certificate, there are qualifications that are required to be employed. These can be found under section 1012.32, Florida Statutes (Qualifications of personnel). These include:
- Be of good moral character
- Be 18 years of age
- Cannot be ineligible under s. 1012.315, Fla. Stat.
- Hold a Certificate
- Pass a Level 2 background screening (repeated every 5-years)
- Cannot have been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude”
Note that some of these requirements can be interpreted broadly.
What Convictions Can Prohibit a Certificate
The list of crimes that can prohibit a person from receiving any teaching certification is listed in section 1012.315, Florida Statutes.
Good Moral Character; Moral Turpitude
As noted above, some qualifications can be broadly interpreted. What is considered “good moral character” may be subject to local rules and appellate decisions. Moral turpitude typically includes a finding that actions taken by a person involved baseness, vileness, or depravity. An example of a crime of moral turpitude is prostitution. Note that the crimes listed in section 1012.315 are mostly serious offenses. However, violating “good moral character” or being involved in acts of “moral turpitude” need not be as serious an offense.
Can an Expungement or Sealing of a Criminal Record Help
The disqualifying criteria regarding crimes listed above all require that the person have been “convicted” of the offense. It is not clear whether convicted includes offenses where a person was found guilty but had the adjudication of guilt “withheld.” (See, differences between a conviction and a withhold). The qualification requiring that the person “be of good moral character” may envelope any finding of guilt.
A sealed record or an expunged record is no longer a public record. The sealing and expungement laws also allow you to deny that the arrest ever occurred (or that it was not you). There are exceptions to this “deniability” benefit. Even if a record has been sealed or expunged, the law requires that a person seeking employment as a teacher disclose the the arrest (even if dropped).
Expunging the Record
Expunging a criminal record requires that the charges have been dropped. Since a case where the charges have been dropped would not be a finding of guilt, it seems this would not affect employment or the obtaining of a certificate. However, it would seem advantageous to have the record expunged. Although disclosure to the school is required, it would stop parents and other individuals from seeing the arrest.
Sealing the Record
A person can seal a criminal record if found guilty of a criminal offense and the adjudication has been “withheld.” However, certain offenses, even if the adjudication has been withheld, are prohibited from sealing. Moreover, disclosure to the school is still required. If the offense is not one found in section 1012.315 and is eligible to be sealed it is always better to have it sealed even though it won’t prevent the school from knowing of it.
Whether you seal or expunge your record, always obtain certified copies of your court file. It is important to have these because once the record has been sealed or expunged, access to these records will end.
Should You Seek Being a Teacher With a Record
If you have been arrested, regardless of the outcome, and you are considering teaching as a career you should first talk with your school/college Guidance Counselor and check with the local School Board in your county. Contacting the licensing board is also a good idea. If you decide to seal or expunge the record, be sure to obtain certified copies of the important case documents. You may need to provide them to future potential employers.
If you are currently employed, you should know the law regarding the implications of an arrest. I cover this in An Arrest, A Background Check, Your Job.
For More Information Emailed to You
Please note the date this article was published. The information listed above is subject to change as changes are made to the laws. The information written above is meant only to be for Informational Purposes Only and is not legal advice.
If any corrections or errors are found please notify me as soon as possible.
Eric Dirga has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1995. His office is Eric J. Dirga, PA, located online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.