Consequences of a Criminal Charge for Teachers
Teachers can be seriously impacted by criminal charges, even misdemeanors that do not result in a conviction. There are measures that can be taken to mitigate the effect of an arrest on a teacher’s ability to continue working, therefore it is especially important that teachers seek legal advice as soon as possible from an attorney who thoroughly understands these collateral consequences.
Judges Must Report All Convictions
Under A.R.S. § 13-3990, if a teacher is convicted of any crime, even a simple misdemeanor, the judge is required to send a notification to the Arizona State Board of Education, or the Community College District.
This includes convictions for any teacher:
- certified by the state board of education
- teaching in a charter school or
- teaching in a community college
Fingerprint Clearance Eligibility
All teachers in Arizona hold fingerprint card clearances. Fingerprint clearance cards can be suspended upon arrest, for any “precluding offenses”, including many misdemeanors.
A.R.S. §§ 41-1758.03 (B) & (C) and 41-1758.07 (B) & (C) collectively list over 100 individual precluding offenses, including many common misdemeanors involving domestic violence, drugs, and alcohol.
“Immoral or Unprofessional Conduct”
Under A.A.C. R7-2-1308, a teacher can be dismissed for a finding of “immoral or unprofessional conduct”. This includes conduct that:
- occurs outside of school
- does not result in a criminal conviction
- has no bearing on unfitness to teach
- has no adverse impact on students
- would “discredit the teaching profession”
Under certain circumstances, even dishonesty to the Board can be considered unprofessional conduct.
Minimizing the Damage
In the event a teacher is charged with a criminal offense, there are ways to minimize the impact that the arrest will have on the teacher’s ability to work, especially if the crime is a misdemeanor. A DUI could only result in a restriction on certain duties, especially if there was no property damage involved. Sometimes, attending classes or treatment, even before a judge orders it, could help a teacher minimize the effect of the conviction.
Regardless of the outcome, teachers may be required to report certain pending criminal charges to their employer. Additionally, the Board of Education considers whether or not the teacher made a timely disclosure of the incident, when determining the appropriate disciplinary action.
A teacher facing criminal charges must quickly make decisions that could have a lasting impact on their future career. Consulting with an attorney, who specializes in representing teachers, as soon as possible could greatly improve a teacher’s chances that the arrest will not affect their employment.