Governor Signs Two Saland Bills To Keep Criminals Out Of Schools

Stephen M. Saland

July 22, 2008

S.8553 provides that school employees who are convicted of a sex offense which lands them on the State's Sex Offender Registry will have his or her teaching certificate or license automatically revoked and be fired upon conviction. Similarly, S.8554 provides that a school administrator or supervisor who is convicted of defrauding the government will have his or her professional certificate or license automatically revoked and will be fired upon conviction.

Previously, the law provided that even after being convicted of a crime which would place them on the Sex Offender Registry, employees who held state certifications were entitled to a state administrative hearing to determine whether they should keep their certification. Additionally, the law also provided that tenured employees who had been convicted were also entitled to a disciplinary hearing to determine whether they should keep their job. In some cases, this could keep employees convicted of heinous crimes on the payroll for extended periods of time, with taxpayers footing the bill. A 2004 survey estimated that, annually, over $25 million is spent by schools on disciplinary hearings. The same survey found that 22% of disciplinary hearings involved improper student contact. The average disciplinary hearing costs schools roughly $150,000 per employee.

“The overwhelming majority of teachers in New York are highly dedicated hardworking professionals who are just as outraged as everyone else when one of their colleagues is caught abusing a student,” said Senator Saland. “Until now, conviction did not equal termination and tenured employees often languished for many months on the payroll waiting for hearings to determine if they should lose their license and be fired. Amazingly, some hearings were conducted in jails cells. Obviously, a school employee convicted of a serious sex crime or an administrator convicted of defrauding the government has no business still holding a license and a job in a school, with the taxpayer footing the bill. They’ve had their day in court and been convicted – the school should be rid of them immediately.”

Both new laws take effect immediately.