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Specified Old Drug Convictions for Which Relief Was Granted Cannot Be Used to Deny a Teacher's Credential

The Department of Justice is required by law to maintain criminal history information and provide it to state and local government entities when needed.

One of these government entities is the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Previously the DOJ could provide an applicant's criminal records to the Commission, whether or not relief was granted.

But, starting July 1, 2023, the DOJ will be legally required to withhold certain information about applicants, thanks to amendments introduced by Senate Bill 731.

SB 731 seeks to bar the DOJ from providing the Commission on Teacher Credentialing with criminal records where all three of the following apply:

  • The record is of a conviction for possessing certain specified controlled substances
  • The conviction is more than five years old
  • Relief was granted for the conviction

Therefore, if you have a drug conviction over five years old and you've been granted relief, the Commission cannot use that conviction to deny you teacher credentials.

The Amendments Made By SB 731

Before the Governor of California approved SB 731, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing could deny an application—for a credential or the renewal of one—to anyone previously convicted of possessing drugs.

SB 731 seeks to control the Commission's jurisdiction by making an exception where a conviction is more than five years old. The amendment reads:

(g) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), convictions for controlled substance offenses listed in Section 11350 or 11377, or former Section 11500 or 11500.5, of the Health and Safety Code that are more than five years old, for which relief is granted pursuant to Section 1203.4, 1203.4a, 1203.41, 1203.42, 1203.425, or 1203.49 of the Penal Code, shall not be presented to the Committee on Credentials.

Therefore, this bill is a reprieve for those with old convictions who have been denied teaching credentials.

The Role of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing After SB 731

SB 731 amends sections 44242.5 and 44346 of the Education Code and gives authority to the Commission on Teacher credentialing to:

  • Receive all allegations of acts and omissions by an applicant or person holding a credential where those acts are against the law. This information may come from the DOJ, law enforcement bodies in or out of California, or the court.
  • Launch their investigation based on an affidavit signed by a person who knows about the acts the applicant is accused of committing.
  • Launch its review based on information from an employer about any disciplinary action taken by the employer, such as a dismissal, non-reelection, suspension for more than ten days, or unpaid leave for a period longer than ten days.
  • Launch an investigation if, when filling out your application form, you indicated that you have a prior conviction, are under investigation, or have ever been denied a license due to an allegation of misconduct.

Note: An employer should report information on disciplinary action to the Commission—including an applicant's resignation from their post—within 30 days. If the disciplinary action or resignation is tied to underperformance, the employer is not required to report this.

What an Investigation by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing Involves

A review by the Commission investigates the following:

  • Fitness and competence of the applicant to perform their duties
  • Probable cause for unprofessional or immoral misconduct. The employer is required to be present when testimony is taken.

The committee can terminate the investigation if, after assessing the facts, it determines there was no probable cause. If it determines probable cause, the committee will launch its investigation and recommend its findings to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The last employing school district can access the investigation findings into the applicant. In addition, if the applicant seeks employment elsewhere, the school district can access the investigation's findings if:

  • The request is made within five years after the committee submits its findings to the Commission.
  • There is no pending appeal for the investigation. The request to access the findings can only be allowed if the applicant has not filed an appeal.

It's important to note that records of investigations are confidential and should only be accessed by supervisors within a school district. It is a misdemeanor offense to release such findings.

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