New law creates Florida database for teacher firings, resignations over sexual misconduct

Florida

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A bill that was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 21 will create a state database for teacher firings, resignations and personnel files for public and private schools.

HB 131 requires the Florida Department of Education to create and maintain a list of people who are disqualified from teaching in the state. Included in the database would be reasons for termination as well as a list of teachers who resigned rather than be fired for sexual misconduct.

The Florida Senate calls the record a “disqualification list.” Those personnel whose records are stored have been placed on the list for the following reasons:

  • On the list as directed by the Education Practices Commission
  • Were terminated or resigned in lieu of termination from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student
  • Have been disqualified from owning or operating a private scholarship school, if determined by the Commissioner of Education to have operated a school in a manner contrary or the health, safety, or welfare of the public
  • Have committed a disqualifying felony offense as specified in law

Now that it’s signed into law, the bill will take effect on July 1. Once in effect, the DOE will also require “educational support employees” to be included in the database as it pertains to “establishing standards of ethical conduct and procedures for investigating, reporting, and terminating personnel” for the above conduct violations.

The law goes further, updating DOE policy to require complete investigations of personnel misconduct complaints, regardless of resignation or termination, and allows the DOE to put someone on the disqualification list.

Those on the list have had their educator certificate permanently denied or revoked, and permanently disqualified from owning or operating a private school that participates in state scholarship programs.

If a teacher or other employee is placed on the disqualification list, their identities are included in the list, as well as “affidavits of separation in instances of termination, or resignation in lieu of termination, as a result of sexual misconduct with a student” according to a Senate summary of the bill.

While a teacher may be barred from teaching in the state or owning a private school as a result of being placed on the disqualification list, there are ways to appeal the inclusion.

If someone on the disqualification list is able to show a completed law enforcement investigation into the sexual misconduct that exonerates them or shows no conviction or finding of guilt, or that the person did not commit the disqualifying conduct, they may be removed from the list upon their request.

Additionally, if the person was not the subject of the report of disqualifying conduct and was still put on the list in error or as a result of mistaken identity, or if the employer who submitted their name for disqualification requests their removal from the list, they can submit documentation to support the request and be removed from the record, and may be authorized to teach again.

Going forward, teachers or personnel looking for jobs as staff of school districts, charter schools, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and private schools that accept scholarship students who participate in state scholarship programs will be subject to screening through the Professional Practices’ Database of Disciplinary Actions Against Educators, the FLDOE’s Teacher Certification Database and the new disqualification list, once the law takes effect.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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