California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) automatically suspends or revokes your teaching credential if you are convicted of
- sex crimes requiring registration under Penal Code § 290;
- serious felonies or violent felonies such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, sexual assault, child abuse, or robbery; or
- drug crimes like transporting a controlled substance with the intent to sell.
Here are three key things to know:
- The CTC may also take disciplinary action if you are convicted of an offense that indicates you are unfit to teach.
- If your conviction does not lead to your credential’s automatic suspension/revocation, you can have an administrative hearing before the CTC can take any disciplinary action.
- The CTC can reject your application to become a teacher if you have been convicted of certain serious crimes.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Who regulates schoolteachers in California?
- 2. Do any convictions result in the automatic suspension or revocation of my teaching credentials?
- 3. What about other criminal convictions?
- 4. Can I attend my administrative hearing?
- 5. What is a “conviction” for purposes of teacher discipline?
- 6. Can I receive a teaching credential with a criminal record?
- 7. How can an attorney help?
1. Who regulates schoolteachers in California?
As a California teacher, you are licensed and regulated by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) – an agency within the state’s executive branch.1
Within the Commission, the Committee on Credentials reviews your discipline cases, including those based on criminal convictions. Depending on the nature of the conviction, the Commission can take the following actions:
- deny you a teaching credential,
- revoke or suspend your credential,
- place you on administrative probation, or
- issue you a warning.2
2. Do any convictions result in the automatic suspension or revocation of my teaching credentials?
Yes. California Education Code 44424 sets forth a variety of criminal convictions that will result in the automatic suspension or revocation of your teaching credential.
A few examples include convictions for:
- a sex offense that requires sex offender registration pursuant to Penal Code 290 (like sexual battery),
- a violent or serious felony like kidnapping, extortion, or arson, or
- certain drug offenses, like selling drugs.
3. What about other criminal convictions?
Under California law, a conviction for a crime that is not specifically listed in EDC 44424 can still form the basis for teacher discipline so long as it indicates that you are unfit to teach. Discipline can be imposed for either misdemeanor or felony convictions.
In making a fitness determination, the Committee will look at the:
- impact of your conduct on students,
- proximity or remoteness in time of your conduct,
- type of credential at issue,
- extenuating or aggravating circumstances,
- praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of motives,
- likelihood of recurrence
- the extent to which discipline may chill constitutional rights, and
- publicity or notoriety given to your conduct.4
Example: A 5th grade public school teacher receives three DUI convictions over the course of several years. The convictions do not automatically result in the suspension or revocation of the teacher’s credential. However, the CTC investigates the matter and questions the teacher’s fitness to continue teaching.
The Commission considers the above factors in determining the teacher’s level of fitness and whether it should impose discipline.
Ultimately, the CTC decides to discipline the teacher. It highlights the fact that the teacher’s students would likely lose respect for the teacher and one of the convictions was for an aggravated offense.5
4. Can I attend my administrative hearing?
Yes. The hearing is like a court trial that is held at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). A deputy attorney from the California Department of Justice represents the CTC, and a defense attorney can represent you (at your own cost).
You may introduce evidence to prove your case. For example, you may offer a certificate of rehabilitation to show that, despite a conviction, you are still fit to teach.
The administrative law judge (ALJ) will likely recommend discipline if the CTC proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that you are unfit to teach. The Commission can approve the recommendation, modify it, or reject it and make its own findings.
Note that you have the right to appeal the Commission’s decision by filing a writ with the Superior Court. If the Commission decides to suspend or revoke your credential, you can try to petition the CTC for reinstatement.
5. What is a “conviction” for purposes of teacher discipline?
The term “conviction” includes:
- felony and misdemeanor convictions secured through either guilty pleas and verdicts or “no contest” pleas once the judgment has been entered.6
Note that the Commission can even take disciplinary action if you successfully complete a court-ordered diversion program following a conviction.
Generally speaking, the Commission can act with respect to a conviction when:
- the time for appeal has passed,
- the judgment has been affirmed on appeal, or
- an order granting probation is made.7
Note that educator misconduct is reported to the Commission by:
- a superintendent or employing school district,
- a charter school,
- public reporting, or
- self-reporting (for example, your teaching application).8
The Department of Justice will also notify the Commission when you are arrested and/or convicted of a crime.9
6. Can I receive a teaching credential with a criminal record?
The answer depends on the type of crime(s) you were convicted of.
According to California Education Code 44830.1, the CTC can refuse to issue teaching credentials if you were convicted of:
- certain sex offenses,
- a narcotics offense (except for expunged drug possession convictions more than five years old), or
- a serious or violent felony.10
Note that the CTC can also deny credentials if you are determined to be:
- insane by a federal or state court, or
- a mentally disordered sex offender under the law.11
Per Education Code 44345, the Commission may also deny any application for the issuance of a credential if you:
- lack the proper qualifications to be a teacher,
- are physically or mentally disabled to perform the duties of a teacher,
- are addicted to alcohol,
- are addicted to the use of a controlled substance,
- have committed any act of moral turpitude,
- have intentionally committed fraud in your application, or
- refuse to provide evidence of good moral character.12
7. How can an attorney help?
A skilled attorney can represent you at your administrative hearing, help you gather appropriate evidence, and present it to the ALJ.
Attorneys can also help you avoid criminal convictions. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after the state files the charge.
A lawyer can help you contest or defend against the charge so that it gets dismissed. The attorney can also work with the prosecutor to possibly reduce the severity or nature of the charge.
- See California Education Code Section 44000 et seq. See also California Code of Regulations Title 5, Division 8 (Commission on Teacher Credentialing). Note that the CTC regulates all types of teachers in California school districts, including public school teachers, private school teachers, and high school teachers.
- See California Education Code Section 44421.
- California Education Code 44424. California Education Code 44346. SB-731.
- California Code of Regulations Title 5, 80302.
- Broney v. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 462.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 4301.
- See same.
- See CTC website, “Educator Misconduct.”
- See same.
- See California Education Code 44830.1. Senate Bill 731 (2022) (took effect in 2023).
- See same.
- See California Education Code 44345.