New Bill Would Keep Those Convicted of Certain Crimes from Obtaining Teachers Licenses

February 14, 2018 04:17 PM

A state representative has pre-filed a bill meant to keep more people with criminal pasts from obtaining a state license to work or teach in Minnesota schools.

Rep. Kelly Fenton pre-filed her bill Thursday.

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It was fueled by a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS INVESTIGATION last November that found 14 teachers and a staff member had been licensed by the Minnesota board of teaching despite having criminal pasts involving sexual misconduct, violence, drugs and theft.

FAILURE TO REPORT: Search KSTP's Minnesota Teacher Database

At least seven of those teachers were working in schools at the time.

"It was concerning that those types of people were in our classrooms," Fenton said. "Which is why I went back and looked further into the law. We've got to make it crystal clear. We need to prioritize the safety of our children. We need to strengthen the law."

Fenton's bill would change the law to prohibit individuals with domestic violence-related offenses, criminal sexual conduct offenses, those convicted of either a felony or a gross misdemeanor involving a minor, or embezzlement of public funds from obtaining a license to teach or work with students.

Right now, Minnesota state law does not specifically list those offenses mentioned above as reasons for the licensing board to deny an individual.

FAILURE TO REPORT: Teachers with Criminal Pasts Licensed by State Board

In November, the Board of Teaching's acting executive director Alex Liuzzi gave 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a statement that along with the statues, the board considers  "...the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred...or if there's a pattern of conduct" when deciding to issue a license.

Reached for comment, the Board of Teaching, now named the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, provided the following statement on the new bill:

"The Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board's firsts priority is the safety of students and takes public concerns seriously. The board has an aggressive legislative agenda to clarify and strengthen teacher ethics law. We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with legislators to ensure the teacher discipline process continues to keep student safety at its center."

Minnesota's legislative session starts Feb. 20.

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Eric Chaloux

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