School Employee Disqualification

How to Avoid Being Disqualified from NJ School Jobs

NJ School Employee DisqualificationSchool 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 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.

Criminal Defense LawyerCarmine 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:

(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).

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.

Pending Charges

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.