School Employee Disqualification for Certain Criminal Convictions

The Offenses that may Disqualify you as a School Employee in NJ

During this time of year, many recent college graduates with a degree in education are looking forward to an exciting career in a New Jersey school district. It is important to be aware that there might be situations in which you will be permanently barred from such a career. School employee disqualification under New Jersey Statute 18A:6-7.1 for certain criminal convictions is a serious matter. One mistake in your past that has led to a conviction of a criminal offense of the 1st or 2nd degree or a number of enumerated offenses that include 3rd and 4th degree indictable offenses, and some disorderly persons offenses, will not allow you to fulfill your career goals as an educator in New Jersey.School employee disqualification in New Jersey not only applies to teachers; it applies to any position, which requires continual contact with pupils. This may include, substitute teachers, teachers’ aides, child study team members, school physicians, school nurses, custodians, school maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, school law enforcement officers, school secretaries, clerical workers, and bus drivers.

Mandatory Background Checks for Potential School Employees

When you apply for a position within a New Jersey school district that involves continual contact with pupils, you will be required to submit to a background check conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by the New Jersey State Police. As mentioned above, if the background check reveals a conviction of any 1st or 2nd degree indictable offense or any of the enumerated offenses listed in the controlling statute (N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1) you will be permanently disqualified for any position which involves continual contact with pupils. Since the background check will be conducted through the FBI, criminal convictions sustained in other states will also appear. If the crime you are convicted of in another state is similar to a New Jersey indictable offense or any of the enumerated offenses, you will be disqualified from obtaining employment in a New Jersey school district. The enumerated offenses listed in the statute cover a wide variety of indictable and disorderly persons offenses. The first section of the statute provides that anyone convicted of (1) endangering the welfare of children (N.J.S. 2C: 24-4), (2) endangering the welfare of an incompetent person (N.J.S. 2c: 24-7), or (3) resisting arrest or eluding a police officer (N.J.S. 2C: 29-2) will be permanently disqualified for a school position. One can see how the first two offenses, without question, would bar someone from providing care to a child. However, the resisting arrest charge is one that is very commonly written in conjunction with less serious offenses but can nonetheless disqualify you as well.

Drug Related Offenses Leading to Disqualification

The next category of offenses are drug related. If you are convicted of a (1) manufacture, transportation, sale, possession, distribution, of habitual use of a CDS (N.J.S. 2C: 35-1) or (2) possessing drug paraphernalia (N.J.S. 2C: 36-1) you will unfortunately be disqualified. While the drug charge might be straightforward, the paraphernalia charge can include possession of otherwise legal items that in connection with controlled substances can become criminal. If convicted of charges relating to the use of force you will also be disqualified from being employed in a public school system. These charges can include but are not limited to: robbery, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter, and murder. Theft and other theft related offenses could also disqualify you from working in a public school system. If the theft is of the 3rd degree (the value of the theft is over $500.00) or above, a conviction will be a disqualifier. The common theft offenses include: theft by deception (N.J.S. 2C: 20-4), theft by extortion (N.J.S. 2C: 20-5), receiving stolen property (N.J.S. 2C: 20-7), and shoplifting (N.J.S. 2C: 20-11).

The other enumerated offenses listed in N.J.S.A. 18A: 6-7.1 include:
• Recklessly endangering another person (N.J.S. 2C: 12-2)
• Terroristic threats (N.J.S. 2C: 12-3)
• Criminal restraint) (N.J.S. 2C: 13-2)
• Luring or enticing a child by various means, attempts (N.J.S. 2C: 13-6)
• Causing, risking widespread injury or damage to another (N.J.S. 2C: 17-2)
• Criminal mischief (N.J.S. 2C: 17-3 )
• Burglary (N.J.S. 2C: 18-2)
• Wrongful credit practices and related offenses (N.J.S. 2C: 21-19)
• Threat and improper influence in official political matters (N.J.S. 2C: 27-3)
• Perjury and false swearing (N.J.S. 2C: 28-3)
• Escape (N.J.S. 2C: 29-5)

Defenses Might be Available to Avoid Disqualification

Conspiracy to commit any 1st or 2nd degree crime or any of the enumerated offenses will also permanently disqualify you from holding a position within a New Jersey school district. If you are charged with a 1st or 2nd degree indictable offense or an enumerated offense, it is important to realize that there are defenses and other options available that will not permanently disqualify you. There are two diversionary programs available to you: a Conditional Discharge and Pre-Trial Intervention. A Conditional Discharge is a program available to those who do not have a prior drug conviction. It can be considered a one-time “get out of jail free” pass. Under the program, the individual is placed on a period of probation that may be either supervised or unsupervised. The individual may also be subjected to mandatory drug tests periodically. If during the period the individual stays clean, the charge will be dismissed and there will be no conviction on record. Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) is used at the New Jersey Superior Court level involving more serious crimes. This program is available to individuals with limited or no criminal history. The individual that qualifies is placed in PTI for a period of 1 to 3 years where they are subject to supervision. Successful completion of PTI will result in a dismissal of the charge.

Call Villani & DeLuca for Help with School Employee Disqualification

If you have been charged with a 1st or 2nd degree indictable offense, or an enumerated offense, and are considering employment in a New Jersey school district or are currently employed at a school contact the experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyers of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. today for a free initial consultation. Call 732-965-3350 today!