Ohio School Employees Can Still Be Fired for Criminal Past
October 28, 2010
The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a state law that requires the dismissal of school employees with serious criminal convictions in their pasts. I don’t know whether to celebrate this decision as it clearly would weed out those we don’t want in our schools or to be concerned about the ambiguous term “serious” and the lack of consideration for how long ago the offense took place. I hope this encourages schools to conduct a more through background check of employees rather than relying solely on a state repository.
See excerpt from Cleveland Plain Dealer story below. I wonder if this one is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 5-2 decision issued Tuesday, the court said the law can continue to be applied to employees or applicants whose criminal history is revealed through background checks.
The law was challenged by an unnamed Cincinnati school district employee whose contract came up for renewal eight months after the law took effect in November 2007.
Previously, teachers had to pass background checks. But the new law extended the requirement to nonteaching employees like secretaries, janitors and mechanics.
The background check on the Cincinnati employee (called John Doe in the suit) turned up a drug-trafficking conviction from 1976 – 21 years before he was hired by the district. He was fired, as the law mandated.
But several months later, the Ohio Department of Education issued more specific rules outlining how the law should be enforced.
Under those rules, Doe stood a good chance of keeping his job since his crime happened more than 10 years before and he could have shown he was rehabilitated. The decision would have been up to the district.
The timing was bad luck for Doe, but he can’t have his job back and the law stands, the court ruled.