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What should prospective educators know about the Ethics in Education Act?

While people might prefer to think otherwise, chances are very good that when they were younger, they engaged in conduct that could be classified as perhaps showing a lack of restraint or an absence of judgment. Indeed, it's possible that this conduct even crossed the line from being merely irresponsible to criminal in nature.

This naturally raises the question as to whether the ghosts of past transgressions can come back to haunt aspiring educators. In other words, can a previous criminal conviction for which the debt to society has been fully paid potentially derail a person's plans for a career in education?

The answer to this question can perhaps be found in the text of the Ethics in Education Act of 2008, a landmark piece of state legislation.

What does the Ethics in Education Act state?

At its core, the Ethics in Education Act establishes that instructional personnel and school administrators convicted of certain offenses will be otherwise ineligible for 1) Florida Educator Certificates and 2) "employment in any position that requires direct student contact" in a district school system, charter school, designated private school or the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

What are some of the felony offenses covered by the act?

A complete listing of disqualifying felony convictions is beyond the scope of a single blog post. However, it shouldn't come as a surprise to note that essentially any and all sex crimes are included, as well as manslaughter and murder.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that felony convictions for aggravated assault, aggravated battery and those relating to drug abuse prevention and control (provided the offense was a second-degree felony of the second degree or greater) are included.

What about misdemeanors?

There are only two misdemeanor convictions that would result in instructional personnel and school administrators being ruled ineligible for certificates and employment: battery (if the victim was a minor), and luring or enticing of a child.

What about criminal convictions in other states?

Those criminal acts committed in other jurisdictions that would be afforded similar legal treatment here in Florida count for the purposes of the Ethics in Education Act. For example, a felony arson conviction in neighboring Georgia would disqualify an individual for a teaching certificate and school-related employment.

If you would like to learn more about this issue or are an education professional with licensing concerns, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about protecting your reputation and your future.

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