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Pennsylvania State Law Barring Teachers with Previous Criminal Records to Teach Creates Controversy

Updated on February 27, 2012

Self Righteous Politicians Seek to Preserve Their Image


What's Wrong With The Law as It's Written....Punishing a Person For Past Decisions

copyright 2008, Jennifer Tyler

Being a teacher is no easy task, especially now. If you are a teacher, no matter where you live, you will certainly understand what I am talking about when I say this profession is one of the most highly attacked professions today. No other profession sees its fair share in the spotlight in recent years as does teaching. I guess we can thank the No Child Left Behind Act for this, as teachers are now the scapegoats of society. However, I will leave that topic for another day.

My reason for writing this hub is simply grounded in my disgust with many of the politicians who “think” that they know what is best for education and our students. Within this past school year Pennsylvania Department of Education passed a law stating that no public or private teacher employed within the state of Pennsylvania would be able to teach if they have previously had a criminal record, including driving while under the influence of alcohol (banned from teaching for 3 years). Incidentally, this new law includes more than just teachers but support staff, administrators, student teachers, and contractors who work in the school. Before I go on, I know most of you are probably thinking what's so bad about this? I mean, these people are teaching our youth.

Well, let me tell you! This law mandates that all employees disclose their criminal record for arrests and convictions, even if they occurred 50 or more years ago. Let's be honest here! We all know that when we are young we make mistakes, we do things that we later on regret. However, what separates these incidents from true criminals is the fact that any people move on from this and change. Many people learn from these mistakes and become responsible, respectful contributors to society. Apparently that is not good enough for Senators like Jeffrey Piccola, who was a major player in getting this law passed. What's more disturbing is the fact that Piccola defends his position to oust otherwise responsible and caring educators from their positions. He goes on to compare teaching to working in a warehouse and corporate America and even states that he's not discouraging fired teachers from getting a job at Weis or Giant (two major supermarkets in Pennsylvania) but saying they cannot be around kids.

I must say that what sparked this frustration for me is the fact that one of my very own colleagues is being fired for a crime that he committed when he was 20, yet was not convicted for. Although he did admit and disclose this information prior to his employment 6 years ago, the new law states he must now be fired because it is believed he is a threat to working around students (he broke into an abandoned barn with a 17 year old and stole from it that lead to his one day stint in jail, thus leading to a criminal charge when he was 20). The fact that this new law now targets people like my colleague (who by the way is one of the most knowledgeable and caring educators you will ever find) and requires that they no longer be allowed to teach is disturbing at best.

So I would like to pose this challenge to lawmakers like Piccola (and any other self righteous politician), when was the last time the common people were allowed to scrutinize at your background? I propose creating new laws that would enable the common people to fire politicians for all the lies, inadequate decisions, and poor morals they surround themselves in. Oh wait! That would mean we would have no one to run this country....My bad!


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