New Law Calls for Retroactive Criminal Checks of Teachers


Effective tomorrow, a new law will go into effect in the state of Florida called Florida’s Ethics in Education Act. This act calls for the re-screening of all Florida teachers to ensure there is nothing in their past that should have disqualified them from employment. Many are concerned that this law will lead to the dismissal of good employees who may have been convicted of criminal activity long ago (with a clean record since) and these dismissals could lead to a multitude of lawsuits.

While we fully support the re-screening of current employees to make sure they keep out of trouble, we also encourage the proper handling of the information one may find. This is a situation where both the state and the individual school districts really need to have all of their ducks in a row. Before any of these teachers are terminated, these employers must make sure that the offense(s) found on the background check can legally be used against the employee. If the case is too old, is a non-conviction, or activity that does not directly pertain to the employee’s job responsibility, it may not be something that can negatively impact the employment of these teachers. In some instances, what is found (depending on the search method) may not be something the employer is even legally allowed to know about.

So, a word of caution to those making the final determination regarding the future of some of these educators – know your employment laws and apply them correctly. Otherwise, you could be in for many years of litigation.

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