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 can be found in section 1012.315, Florida Statutes. This list is extensive and you should review it before going forward.
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.
Are There Benefits to Having Your Record Sealed or Expunged
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. 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).
These exceptions include if you are seeking to be employed or licensed by, or contract with the:
- Florida Department of Education,
- any school district or special school district,
- Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind,
- Florida Virtual Schools,
- Any virtual instruction program,
- any charter school,
- any hope operator,
- any alternative school,
- any private or parochial school, or
- any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities.
This includes anyone seeking to be employed or used by a contractor or licensee for the above entities as well, and non-instructional contractors that must be screened by statute.
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.