Misconduct that is actionable under the Professional Educator Discipline Act can be either criminal or non-criminal.
With respect to non-criminal conduct, the Act provides that the Commission shall discipline any professional educator found guilty of immorality, incompetency, intemperance, cruelty, negligence or for violation of the Act of May 29, 1931, which penalizes the illegal use of a professional title and the forgery or alteration of a teaching certificate. (24 P.S. §1231).
In addition, violations of sections 6 - 11 of the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators also can serve as the basis for disciplinary action. When the charges against an educator are based solely on violation of the Code, however, the Act limits the range of applicable discipline to a reprimand. In Chapter 237, Title 22, of the Pennsylvania Code, the Commission has defined these terms as follows:
Immorality --- Immorality is conduct which offends the morals of the Commonwealth and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals a professional educator or a charter school staff member has a duty to foster and elevate.
Incompetency --- Incompetency is a continuing or persistent mental or intellectual inability or incapacity to perform the services expected of a professional educator or a charter school staff member.
Intemperance --- Intemperance is a loss of self-control or self-restraint, which may result from excessive conduct.
Cruelty --- Cruelty is the intentional, malicious and unnecessary infliction of physical or psychological pain upon living creatures, particularly human beings.
Negligence --- Negligence is a continuing or persistent action or omission in violation of a duty. A duty may be established by law, by promulgated school rules, policies or procedures, by express direction from superiors or by duties of professional responsibility, including duties prescribed by Chapter 235 (relating to Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators).
Typically, charges initiated against an educator on any of the grounds listed above may result in a hearing before a Commission hearing officer. If an educator elects not to contest the charges; however, a decision on the matter may be made without a hearing. When charges are brought against an educator on non-criminal grounds, the Commission has discretion to determine if the conduct occurred, if the conduct constitutes one of the grounds for discipline, and what discipline should be imposed, if any. In contrast to cases arising on criminal grounds, the Commission maintains full adjudicatory discretion in cases filed on the above-described grounds
Notice of Charges can be filed against an educator on the sole basis that the educator has been convicted of certain crimes. The Professional Educator Discipline Act mandates that the Commission revoke the certificate of any educator convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or a crime listed in section 111(e)(1)-(3) of the Public School Code. If the crime does not fall within either of these categories, then the Department must pursue discipline against the educator based on the non-criminal grounds listed above. Similarly, if an educator is charged but acquitted of a included crime, the Department must proceed on non-criminal grounds
CRIMES INVOLVING MORAL TURPITUDE
A crime constitutes moral turpitude if it involves:
(1) That element and personal misconduct in the private and social duties which a person owes to his fellow human beings or to society in general, which characterizes the act done as an act of baseness, vileness or depravity, and contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between two human beings.
(2) Conduct done knowingly contrary to justice, honesty or good morals.
(3) Intentional, knowing or reckless conduct causing bodily injury to another or intentional, knowing or reckless conduct which, by physical menace, puts another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
22 Pa. Code §237.9(a).
In determining whether any specific crime meets the definition of moral turpitude, the Commission is restricted to a review of the elements of the crime as defined by statute juxtaposed against the above definition of moral turpitude. The Commission cannot consider the underlying facts that led to the conviction. Crimes that the Commission previously has concluded meet the definition of moral turpitude include, but are not limited to:
Aggravated Assault, Aggravated indecent Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Attempted Aggravated Indecent Assault, Bank Robbery; Burglary, Child Abuse, Child Pornography, Complicity to Commit Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy to Distribute Illegal Drugs, Corruption of Minors, Cruelty and Neglect of Children (NJ), Defrauding Public Welfare; Delivery of Controlled Substances, Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Disseminating Explicit Sexual Materials to a Minor, Endangering the Welfare of Children, Falsely Altering Military Records, Falsifying Business Records; Felonious Assault (Ohio), Forcible Sodomy, Forgery, Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards, Grand Larceny, Gross Sexual Imposition (Ohio), Homicide by Vehicle, Indecent Assault Indecent Exposure, Insurance Fraud; Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Lewd and Lascivious Assault on Child, Lewdness (Honduras), Mail Fraud, Making False Statements to Federal Agency, Money Laundering of Drug Trafficking Proceeds, Murder, Obscene and Other Sexual Materials and Performances, Obstruction of Justice, Patronizing Prostitution, Pharmacy Act Violation, Possession of Child Pornography, Possession (Felony) of Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Rape, Receiving Child Pornography, Receiving Stolen Property, Reckless Endangerment, Sexual Abuse by a Custodian (W. Va), Sexual Abuse of Children, Sexual Battery (Ohio), Sexual Exploitation of Minor (Federal), Statutory Rape, Statutory Sexual Assault, Theft by Deception, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds; Theft by Unlawful Taking; Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods; Unlawful Contact or Communication with Minor, Unlawful Restraint, and Wire Fraud.
As a general rule, the Commission is hesitant to find that a crime meets the definition of moral turpitude per se unless it is quite clear. The hesitancy arises since a determination of per se moral turpitude eliminates the Commission's discretion and ability to review the underlying facts. Typically, however, crimes that involve deception, lying or fraud are considered universally to be crimes involving moral turpitude.
SECTION 111(e) CRIMES
Section 1-111(e) of the Public School Code of 1949 requires all prospective employees of all public and private schools to submit a state and federal criminal history record prior to employment. The school entity is prohibited from employing the candidate if the criminal history record indicates a conviction of one of the crimes listed below within five years of the report:
- criminal homicide
- aggravated assault
- unlawful restraint
- statutory sexual assault
- involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- sexual assault
- aggravated indecent assault
- indecent assault
- indecent exposure
- endangering welfare of children
- dealing in infant children
- felony offense under sections relating to prostitution
- obscene and other sexual materials and performances
- corruption of minors
- sexual abuse of children
- felony under Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act
- out-of-state or federal crimes similar in nature to any of the Pennsylvania crimes listed above.
For purposes of discipline, the Commission must direct the Department to revoke the certificate of any educator convicted of the crimes listed above.