Below is information on becoming a California teacher even with a criminal record. To see if you are eligible for one of our criminal record clearing services, take our FREE Eligibility Check.
If you want to become a teacher in the state of California, but you have a criminal record, you may be wondering if this career path is even possible for you. Fortunately, in most cases, you will still be able to become a teacher. There will, however, probably be a few steps involved to either make yourself eligible to teach or competitive with the other applicants that do not have a criminal record.
The first step is to determine what section of the California Code section you were found guilty of violating. While you probably know that you the common term for the offense that you were convicted of, such as petty theft or domestic violence, you most likely do not know which part of the California Code section this conviction falls under. Knowing the section number that you were convicted under will help you determine if you are currently eligible to apply to be a teacher in California and also what kind of relief that you can get from the court regarding that conviction. It is wise to consult a licensed attorney to help you figure out precisely what you were convicted of and what options you have when it comes to applying to pursuing your goal of becoming a teacher. You can also contact the court that convicted you to get your court records or request a copy of your criminal record from the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”). For information on how to request your criminal record through the DOJ, see https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints.
Under California Education Code section 44830.1, you cannot be hired as a teacher if you were convicted of a violent or serious felony. Violent felonies are defined under California Penal Code 667.5(c). These include felonies like those that inflicted great bodily harm, robbery, and some forms of burglary. To view the list of violent felonies, please see section 667.5(c), available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=654-678. Serious felonies are defined under California Penal Code 1192.7(c). These include, but aren’t limited to, the violent felonies and several forms of assault. For the list of serious felonies, please see http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Parole/Non_Revocable_Parole/Serious_Offenses_Defined.html.
If your felony conviction falls into one of these categories, there you can overcome this obstacle. California law (Penal Code 4852.01) may allow you to apply with the District Court in the county where you reside for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. If granted to you, the certificate states that you are living an honest life, exhibiting good moral character and obeying the laws of land. If you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you cannot be denied a teaching position or terminated from the current teaching position you hold under California Education Code 44830.1(f). There are several requirements that must be met before applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, including a requirement that you have resided in California for the five years immediately preceding your application for the Certificate.
If you do not meet the requirements for the Certificate of Rehabilitation or would like to pursue a different approach to proving rehabilitation, you there is another option. California Education Code 44830.1(g) states that if you were convicted of a serious, but not violent, felony you also cannot be denied a teaching position or be terminated from your current teaching position if you can prove to the court that sentenced you by clear and convincing evidence that you have been rehabilitated for a year. Clear and convincing evidence in this instance means it is highly more likely than not that you have been rehabilitated. If you were convicted outside the state of California, you can apply for a finding of rehabilitation in the court located in the County where you live.
If you were not convicted of a serious or violent felony, the good news is your conviction will probably not make you ineligible to be employed as a teacher. The bad news is that teaching is currently a competitive field and a conviction of any type could prevent you from getting hired over someone with no criminal record. Under California law, however, most convictions that you did not serve a prison sentence for can be expunged.
Expungement in California allows you to withdraw your guilty plea and have the disposition of your case changed from convicted to dismissed. Expungement allows you to honestly say on a job application that you do not have a conviction. The school district legally must run a background check on you when you apply to be a teacher. If you have expunged your criminal conviction, it is unlawful for the state cannot discriminate against you on the basis of it (California Labor Code section 432.7). To see if you are eligible to have your record expunged, take our free online eligibility test.
If you have any questions about your hearing date, contact your case manager directly via email or call our office at (877) 573-7273.
Now that you know what you can do to increase your chances to be hired as a teacher, you are probably asking whether you will be able to get your teaching credential in the first place. When applying for a state license, you will have to disclose your conviction, even if it was expunged or you have a certificate of rehabilitation.
The Commission on Teaching Credentialing is the credentialing authority for teachers. They will look at the nature of your offense and consider such things as how it relates to teaching, when the offense occurred, whether you followed the terms of your sentence, and, most importantly, any evidence that you have been rehabilitated.
The evidence of rehabilitation listed on the Commission on Teaching Credentialing’s websites includes a court order expunging of the conviction, a court order reducing a felony to a misdemeanor, or a certificate of rehabilitation. So, even though you have to disclose the conviction on your application, one of these remedies is going to still be important when trying to get your credential. Consulting a licensed attorney to assist you with these procedures will help ensure that your hard work to become a teacher pays off and that you are able to receive your credential and start your teaching career.
Also visit our free expungement and record clearing information page and take our free online eligibility test to see what types of record clearing you are eligible for.