School employees, including New Jersey school teachers, substitute teachers, teachers’ aides, paraprofessionals, child study team members, school physicians, school nurses, custodians, school maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, school law enforcement officers, school secretaries or clerical workers, or any person serving in a position which involves regular contact with pupils requires a criminal background check conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation or State Bureau of Identification through the New Jersey State Police. This also covers individuals employed by the Board of Education or by a school bus contractor (if acting in the capacity as a school bus driver). Essentially, anyone employed in a public school system related to the education of children under the age of 18 is required to have a criminal history and background check under the laws of the State of New Jersey. A criminal record can become a bar to employment in many situations.
Experienced NJ School Employee Disqualification Lawyers
As New Jersey, criminal defense attorneys, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. have been called upon on many occasions to represent individuals who, in some capacity, have worked in a school system or who have been attempting to gain employment through a Board of Education. The law provides that there are many circumstances in which a person would be disqualified from teaching or otherwise working within a school system based upon their criminal record. The law requires that an individual shall be permanently disqualified from employment or service within the Board of Education System if the individual’s criminal records check reveals a record of a conviction of any first or second-degree crime. First degree and second-degree crimes are the most serious crimes. However, there is also a list of less serious crimes, not rising to the level of first or second degree, which would disqualify an applicant from a job within a school system or a teacher or employee from maintaining his or her employment within a school system. Carmine R. Villani, Esq., Managing Partner of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., is a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who has a great deal of experience working with individuals who have either been applicants for positions within school systems or are current employees. It is imperative that a matter involving a school employee be handled properly in that a criminal conviction for certain specific charges can become a permanent disqualification from teaching or otherwise working in a school system.
Criminal matters involving New Jersey school teachers, even a custodian, guidance counselor, school bus driver or other individual working with children under the age of 18, will be governed by the New Jersey Statutes regarding eligibility for employment. N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1 is the New Jersey Statute regarding criminal records relative to an employee in regular contact with pupils and sets forth the grounds for disqualification from employment. You should be aware that a criminal records check is a full federal search of crimes such that even a crime committed in another state may become a disqualification.
Carmine Villani was asked to comment on the news story involving a teacher being fired from a Union City, NJ school after the school found out about her out-of-state cocaine possession conviction. This story on teacher disqualification was aired on My9 New Jersey.
Convictions Warranting Disqualification from the Public School System
According to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1, the following are the specific criminal charges which would result in an automatic bar or disqualification from obtaining a teaching certificate or otherwise working within a public school system:
- N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 (Endangering the welfare of children). This is a very serious charge which on its face would be a logical bar to anyone attempting to become or remain a school teacher or work in a school system. However, as New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, we often see instances where the charges are without basis and result from allegations often in the context of a divorce or child custody dispute, but nevertheless these charges, if resulting in a conviction, would be a permanent bar from employment in a school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:24-7 (Endangering the welfare of an incompetent person). This charge is a disorderly persons offense, not an indictable offense. Nevertheless, since it is set forth on the specific list of crimes governed by the permanent disqualification rule, a criminal conviction under this section would permanently bar someone from becoming or remaining a school teacher or from working as an employee within a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 (Resisting arrest or eluding a police officer). N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2is a charge of resisting arrest or of eluding a police officer. We, as New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, are often placed in a position to represent individuals charged with resisting arrest or eluding a police officer. We see many cases wherein an individual begins by being charged with a minor criminal or even motor vehicle infraction and a resisting arrest charge results. Failure to be compliant with a law enforcement officer, if resulting in a conviction for resisting arrest, would result in a permanent disqualification from becoming or remaining a school teacher or from being employed in a school system.
- Eluding an officer can be a second- or third-degree crime and is commonly written by law enforcement. We have been in the position, as New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, to represent individuals in circumstances involving eluding a police officer. The fact pattern in those cases can be as simple as a person speeding and an officer attempts to stop that individual wherein the individual speeds up or takes evasive measures to avoid being stopped. Eluding, on its face, may not appear to be a logical bar to disqualify you from teaching or otherwise working a school system. Nevertheless, eluding is a specific criminal charge set forth within the statutes. As a specified charge, a conviction for eluding would permanently disqualify an individual from employment in a public school system.
- Manufacture, Transportation, Sale, Possession, Distribution or Habitual use of a controlled dangerous substance, governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:35-1, et seq. or drug paraphernalia, as defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:36-1, et seq. would be a permanent disqualification from employment or service in a public school system.
- If convicted of a charge involving the use of force or the threat of force to or upon a person or property which charges include, but not limited to, robbery, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter and murder, a person would be permanently barred or disqualified from employment with a public school system.
- Theft and Related Offenses. A third-degree crime set forth in Chapter 20 of Title 2C of our New Jersey Criminal Code related to theft and related offenses would be a bar to employment. Third-degree crimes set forth in Chapter 20 are varied and include crimes involving computer theft. Each of the statutes has specific provisions as to the degree of the crime, based upon the amounts involved. Depending upon the amount in question, the crime will be designated a specific degree. A criminal record revealing a conviction for those crimes involving a set amount exceeding the statutory limit for a third-degree crime (over $500.00), would be a permanent disqualification from employment in a public school system. Nevertheless, it is the conviction that controls. Often, in situations involving theft, the amount in question exceeds the statutory limit for a third-degree crime; however, through plea bargaining or a diversionary program, there are often situations where the final charge and conviction is not directly tied to the actual amount taken. Through the plea bargaining of these charges, it is often the situation where the crime may not be considered a third-degree crime although the amount and value of the property could exceed that sum. It is not the amount or the value of the item or items in question, it is the final conviction. If that conviction results in a conviction of a third-degree crime, than that third-degree conviction would result in a disqualification from employment within a public school system. The following is a list of theft-related charges set forth in Chapter 20 of the New Jersey Criminal Statutes.
(a) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 (theft by unlawful taking or disposition of moving property or immovable property).
(b) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 (theft by deception).
(c) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5 (theft by extortion).
(d) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7 (receiving stolen property).
(e) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7.1 (fencing).
(f) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 (theft of services).
(g) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9 (theft by failure to make required disposition of property received).
(h) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10 (unlawful taking of means of conveyance).
(i) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11 (shoplifting).
(j) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11.2 (leader of organized retail theft enterprise).
(k) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-16 (operation of facility for sale of stolen automobile or parts, second-degree crime).
(l) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-17 (use of a juvenile in theft of automobiles, second-degree crime).
(m) N.J.S.A. 2C:20-18 (leader of automobile theft trafficking network, creation of offense).
- N.J.S.A. 2C:12-2 (recklessly endangering another person). A conviction for violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-2 would result in a permanent disqualification from employment in a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 (terroristic threats). A terroristic threat is a charge that is frequently written. As criminal defense attorneys, we have seen situations where someone simply loses their temper and makes a statement in a fit of rage which results in a charge of terroristic threats. These charges are often seen in instances involving marital disputes and restraining orders wherein one party threatens the other. This is a third-degree crime. A conviction requires that a person “threatens to kill another with the purpose to put that person in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out.” This, regretfully, is an often written charge and quite serious. We have seen situations, as criminal defense attorneys, where a simple lapse in judgment in a short period of time would place someone in a position wherein they are charged with terroristic threats. A terroristic threats conviction would result in a permanent disqualification from employment with a public school system. We are often in a position to plea bargain these cases to the less serious charge of harassment which is a petty disorderly persons offense and not a bar from employment.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2 (criminal restraint). Under this statute, a person commits a crime of the third-degree if they knowingly (a) restrain another unlawfully in circumstances exposing the other to risk of serious bodily injury; or (b) holds another in a condition of involuntary servitude. As New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, we have rarely seen this charge written, but nevertheless it is one of the enumerated bars to employment in a public school system that would result in a permanent disqualification if a conviction is obtained.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6 (luring or enticing a child by various means, attempts; crime of the second degree). This charge is obviously very serious and would result in a permanent disqualification of employment in a public school system if a conviction is obtained.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:17-2 (causing or risking widespread injury or damage to another). This charge is obviously very serious and would result in a permanent disqualification of employment in a public school system if a conviction is obtained.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 (criminal mischief). Criminal mischief is a frequently written charge and is placed on the enumerated list of charges resulting in disqualification from employment if convicted. Criminal mischief is doing substantial damage to the property of a third party. As New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, we have seen situations where the criminal mischief has been as simple as breaking a window or keying or scratching an automobile (which would otherwise seem to be a relatively minor offense) but regretfully, it is maintained on the list of enumerated charges and would require a permanent disqualification from employment or service within a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 (burglary). Burglary is a rather interesting charge in that most people believe that burglary requires that you enter the house of another for the purpose of stealing or doing some other criminal act.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:21-19 (wrongful credit practices and related offenses). This is a statute involving criminal usury involving essentially loan-sharking and other acts of usurious loan practices. A criminal conviction under this statute would result in a permanent disqualification in teaching in a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:27-3 (threat and other improper influence in official and political matters). This is a statute involving instances where an individual commits a crime by threatening or bribing a public official to influence a decision, opinion, recommendation or vote. A conviction of this statute will result in a permanent disqualification in teaching or working in a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:28-3 (perjury and false swearing). This is a statute involving instances where an individual commits a crime by making a false statement in which they do not believe the statement to be true, bearing notice that the individual was aware that the statement was sworn. A conviction of this statute will result in a permanent disqualification in teaching or working in a public school system.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:29-5 (escape). This is a statute involving an individual who escapes from prison, absconds from parole or otherwise. This would result in a permanent disqualification in teaching or working in a public school system.
Conspiracy and Criminal Attempt
The statute further provides that with respect to all of the enumerated charges, the conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the offenses described in the act would also work as a bar or disqualification to employment in a public school system upon conviction.
Regarding pending charges, the statute provides that the conviction is the relevant factor in ascertaining whether a person is disqualified. However, based upon the status of our criminal justice system and the length of time it takes to move a case from the initial complaint stage through the point of trial or plea, there is a great deal of time that generally may pass between the time of the incident (which may have resulted in a criminal charge) and a final resolution of that charge (whether by criminal conviction, dismissal, downgrade or otherwise).
Most importantly, it should be noted that immediately upon a charge being issued against an individual employed within a school system, the social security number of that individual is logged in with the State Police and if that individual receives a criminal charge for a disqualifying criminal charge, there is an immediate notification letter which goes certified mail to the school superintendent. Generally, in our experience, the letter is forwarded to the Superintendent of Schools notifying the Superintendent of the charge if the charge is the type that involves a potential permanent disqualification. In the past matters we have handled, within seventy-two hours a letter is received by our clients and notification to the superintendent of the disqualifying charge has been issued. This letter will come from the Department of Education, Criminal History Review Unit. A charge is not a criminal conviction and you are certainly innocent until proven guilty; however, the fact that an individual is charged with such an offense requires immediate action by the school.
According to the law governing this issue, N.J.S.A. 18A:16-7.1, while the charges are pending for a crime of any of the offenses enumerated in this section, the employing Board of Education shall be notified that the candidate shall not be eligible for employment until the Commissioner of Education has made a determination regarding the qualification or disqualification upon adjudication of the pending charges. Needless to say, the arrest alone will have a significant impact on employment or employability immediately upon issuance. It is imperative that an individual facing these types of matters retain a New Jersey criminal defense attorney familiar with these laws and disqualification issues as the impact of an improperly entered plea could result in a disqualification from employment in a public school system.
Often, defense attorneys are in a position to plea bargain matters. Without knowledge or understanding of the disqualifying crime or offense, you could be placed in a circumstance where a matter is plea bargained from one disqualifying event to another. Although the plea bargain may provide you with some benefit as it relates to the criminal charges, it could in the end result in your final permanent disqualification from employment. Often these issues occur on the less obvious charges which would not, at least logically, on their face constitute a crime which should require disqualification such as possibly a criminal mischief or a resisting arrest charge.
Call a NJ School Employee Disqualification Attorney
It is extremely important that you immediately take steps to obtain representation from a criminal defense attorney familiar with disqualification if you are an applicant who will be applying to work within the public school system or otherwise a school employee, who has been charged with a criminal offense. Call Carmine R. Villani, Esq., an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Villani & DeLuca, P.C., for a free consultation today at 732-965-3350. We represent clients throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey.