As School Starts, Lawmaker Vows to Keep Teachers with Criminal Pasts Out of Classrooms

September 05, 2018 12:43 PM

As students return to classrooms across Minnesota, a state lawmaker says she will continue to push a law change that would prevent teachers with certain criminal pasts from obtaining a license.

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Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) introduced legislation last year after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Investigation found the Minnesota Board of Teaching, now known as the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), had issued licenses to 14 teachers and staff members who had criminal pasts involving sexual misconduct, violence, drugs and theft. 

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has spent the last year maintaining an online database that allows parents to review teacher disciplinary records. 

Minnesota Teacher Database

Loon's bill would have prevented the board from issuing licenses to teachers who had been convicted of certain felonies, including theft.

The legislation passed but was part of a large omnibus bill that was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

"I know there's strong support in the legislature, hopefully next year we can make a run at it," Loon said.

A PELSB spokesperson said the board supported legislation that "clarified certain crimes as automatic revocation offenses."

"The board looks forward to continuing the conversation next legislative session," the spokesperson added in a statement.

However, around the time that the legislation died, state records show PELSB issued a teaching license to a woman who disclosed that she had embezzled more than $700,000 and was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion.

Carol L. Silus, a paraprofessional at the junior high school in the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District, will be allowed to maintain her teaching license as long as she "continues to make her scheduled payments" for restitution and "does not engage in any professional or criminal misconduct," according to a signed stipulation agreement.

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

Silus declined to comment Tuesday. 

Superintendent Dr. Chris Sonju said he was aware of Silus' felony convictions.

"We feel comfortable and feel fortunate to have her on our staff as she has done a great job helping students succeed," Sonju said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The PELSB spokesperson said the board cannot comment on specific licenses.

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Eric Chaloux

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