If you are a teacher in Pennsylvania and you face criminal charges, your teaching license is at risk. As someone who has spent years learning to help inspire the next generation through education, allegations of a criminal offense should not be allowed to derail your teaching career. While these accusations can be frightening and frustrating, you do not have to face them alone.
As a teacher, you are required to be licensed to teach in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Criminal charges can result in suspension or revocation of your license if you are convicted of a crime. In some circumstances, even if you are not charged, or are found not guilty, your teaching license could still be at risk without a successful defense.
Experienced Philadelphia attorney Joseph D. Lento is highly experienced in the area of teacher criminal defense and is here to answer your questions, as well as represent you in your criminal case. You can protect your teaching license and your constitutional rights together.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you represent teachers who are charged with a crime?
Our firm represents teachers in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas who face criminal charges. Whether your charge is a serious felony or a "minor" crime such as a misdemeanor, the risk to your freedom and your right to continue teaching are very real. You do not have to simply watch as allegations of a crime rob you of your livelihood; you can fight back by defending your case.
2. Do you help to defend teaching licenses?
Pennsylvania teachers need a teaching license in order to work in their profession. If that license is stripped away as the result of a criminal charge, or an administrative hearing, you will not be able to continue teaching, and you will lose your students. A strong defense of your teaching license and against your criminal charges will protect your rights.
3. What are common offenses that may lead to the loss of my teaching license?
As a teacher, you are held to high moral and ethical standards under your rules of conduct. This means that, potentially, any crime could result in either revocation or suspension of your teaching license. This includes even more "minor" crimes such as misdemeanors. While felony convictions are even more likely to impact your right to continue teaching, both have serious implications for your continued work in your field.
Offenses that commonly result in loss of your teaching license include, but are not limited to:
- Sex Crimes: As a teacher, a sex crime, either in a school setting or not, is a very serious thing. A person accused of a sex crime often feels as though they are judged guilty before it is ever proven. They often feel hopeless, but there is hope with a strong defense. Teachers are often accused of sex crimes in relation to their students, whether the student is underage or there is a policy against student-teacher relations regardless of age. Crimes that are totally unrelated to teaching, that allegedly occurred outside of school, can also impact on your teaching license. Not to mention, these crimes are serious in their own right and can result in lengthy prison sentences as well as lifetime sex offender registration.
- Violent Offenses: Violent offenses, such as domestic abuse, child abuse, assault, and more can have a major impact on your life. Violent offenses may disqualify you from teaching, even if they occurred in your personal life, and had nothing to do with the school or a student. These crimes can range from misdemeanors to felonies, but the impact on your life can be severe either way if you do not defend your case.
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI): A teacher drives under the influence if he or she is under the influence of an intoxicating substance (i.e. alcohol or drugs) while operating a motor vehicle. If a teacher was high while driving, or had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel, the consequences can be significant. A DUI charge can result in the loss of your teaching license, as well as criminal penalties such as jail time, high fines, and the loss of your Pennsylvania driver's license. Even if you are not convicted of a crime, the State Board may determine that action is necessary because of a DUI allegation.
- Substance Abuse Related Crimes: If a teacher is addicted to either drugs or alcohol, crimes related to that addiction can cause a serious risk to your ability to continue teaching. Offenses such as drug trafficking, drug possession, property theft, or other crimes related to your addiction can result in both criminal charges and the loss of your license. If instead, it is reported to the teaching board that you are an addict, an investigation could result in the loss of your teaching license, even without any criminal charges ever being filed.
Because teachers are held to such high standards, any crime could result in the loss of your teaching license in Pennsylvania. If you do not see the accusations against you mentioned here, you still need to contact an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney to make sure your constitutional rights are protected.
4. What other types of offenses may be considered teaching license violations?
Other types of crimes, or even non-crimes, could result in the loss of your teaching license. The high ethical standards put in place by the State Board can result in very "nit-picky" and overzealous interpretations of a teacher's conduct. Even if the actions of a teacher may or may not rise to the level of a crime, the State Board may feel inclined to investigate and charge the teacher anyway.
Other types of conduct that may result in a teaching license violation include:
- Bribes or Gifts: This is not the "apple on your desk" gift, but rather something different. A bribe occurs when a gift is intended to solicit some type of action on the part of the teacher that is not proper. One example may be a cash "gift" so that a failing grade will be bumped up. Other types of gifts could include discounts, coupons, other free items, etc. A common situation is when an athlete is not making sufficient grades to continue playing the sport, so a teacher is "encouraged" to help in an inappropriate way in order to fudge the grades and permit the player to participate. This can sometimes be a crime but is more likely an ethical violation that could result in the loss of your teaching license.
- Bullying of Students: Some teachers are accused of "bullying" their students. This can result from name-calling, rude behavior, purposefully ignoring a student or other type of conduct intentionally designed to harass or harm the student. Often, these allegations are fabricated or exaggerated, and you should not have to watch your license be at risk as a result.
- Sharing Student Confidential Information: A teacher is required by certain state and federal laws to protect the confidential information of his or her students. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges and the loss of a teaching license. Intentional disclosure of confidential information is more likely to result in criminal charges as well as a risk to your license. However, even accidental disclosure could land you in hot water with the State Board, depending on the circumstances. It is crucial to defend yourself against these kinds of charges.
5. What organization will decide if I lose my teaching license?
If you are accused of some type of crime or misconduct, it is the Professional Standards and Practices Commission that will decide whether or not you will lose your teaching license, or face some other type of sanction. Under the Educator Discipline Act, the Commission has the power to hold public and private school teachers responsible for their actions and discipline them if necessary.
6. Will there be an investigation into my charges?
Yes. If there are criminal charges pending against you, the police and prosecutor will investigate the case. These parties often have a skewed view, as their job is to successfully convict you of a crime.
The Commission will also investigate to determine whether the allegations against you are true, and if so, what type of action is necessary. This could involve the suspension or revocation of your teaching license and other sanctions.
Your criminal defense attorney will also investigate your case independently of the other groups, in order to present the strongest case possible against the allegations you face.
7. What is the administrative process I will have to deal with?
Under the Educator Discipline Act, the allegations against you will go through an investigation and several layers of review by the Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Once the matters have been reviewed, an administrative hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with sanctions, and determine what those sanctions will be.
At this hearing, and in your criminal case as well, it is crucial that you have an experienced attorney at your side to defend your case. The rules and procedures are complicated, and if you try to represent yourself, you will be expected to know and follow these rules as if you were an attorney. Your rights deserve the best protection possible.
A Philadelphia Defense Attorney At Your Side
When your teaching license is at risk, and you face criminal charges, you deserve to have your rights protected. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney, who handles cases both on the criminal front, and at the administrative level to protect your teaching license. If you are facing criminal charges, contact us today at 215-535-5353.