You're Outta Th ... huh ... no? Still Working in PA's Schools

I recently received yet another call from a current school employee (working at a school Fox Rothschild does not represent) who had a problem because of old criminal conduct.  Obviously, with all this continuing interest, it is a good topic for discussion.

This call came from a non-professional employee (i.e. someone not requiring a certificate to work in the school) who had an old prior conviction for a §1-111(e) offense.  At the time the school hired him, his conviction was more than 5 years old.  Therefore, under the old version of the law he was eligible for employment.

Before going any further, it is important that this is a non-professional employee.  PDE is interpreting 24 P.S. §2070.9a(2) to mean that all old §1-111(e) offenses (even those that did not used to fall into that category) that a school learns about through the new self-report must be passed-on to the Professional Standards and Practices Commission.  Action by that commission can impact on a teacher's license which can then cause the teacher to be fired.

But back to the non-professional employees.

The new language for §1-111(e) starts off with

[n]o person subject to this act shall be employed in a public or private school, intermediate unit or area vocational-technical school where the report of criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of any of [the listed offenses].

However, this language is directed at "applicants" not at current employees. Restated, the above says 'no school may offer employment to a person where that applicant's criminal record shows a conviction for ....'   Oddly, there are some school administrators that are ignoring the plain language of the statute and interpreting that language to mean that current employees who were properly hired need to be fired.

There is a School Code provision covering current employees who get convicted of new offenses, but that is found at §5-527(b).  Moreover, it only applies to convictions taking place while employed.  Convictions prior to employment do not count.

So, as it applies to this guy, the amended §1-111 will keep him from getting a new position in a new school, but should have no impact on his present position.  Because he cannot get a position in any other school, it would seem to me that he might want to do what he could to keep this job.

There are lots of reasons a school employee can be fired, and the above school might have one of those reasons. My point is that as it is written, §1-111 should not be used as the sole basis for firing any current employee.

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