“Act 24” Bars Many From Working in PA Schools

June 15th, 2012 by admin

A criminal conviction can haunt you for years. And while Pennsylvania schools already limited who could get employment within the system following a conviction, Act 24, a newer law, places a lifetime ban on those convicted of numerous offenses.

Homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, aggravated assault and felony drug convictions all result in a lifetime ban from the schools. Those convicted of several other offenses are required to wait five years before seeking employment with the school. But for some school employees, Act 24 meant they were out of a job.

According to NewsWorks, 41-year old Rey Santiago worked at Olney Charter High School until the law required his employer to let him go. He had been convicted of a qualifying offense when he was 16 years old. Despite not having any arrests since, the crime banned him from ever working within the schools.

While it isn’t hard to convince people, especially parents, that someone with a history of homicide or sex offenses shouldn’t be working around kids, felony drug convictions and even aggravated assaults are another story. Ten, twenty or even thirty years after selling drugs, for instance, still isn’t long enough for the Pennsylvania school system.

Many aren’t convinced of the value of Act 24. President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Mike Crossey says, “I think we have to be very, very careful in our quest for doing what’s right, that we don’t also trample on our freedoms.”

The PSEA is just part of a collective challenging Act 24. Four lawsuits have been filed challenging the law.

Bill McKinney, part of Men in Motion in the Community, a youth-mentoring program that uses ex-offenders to help counsel troubled kids, says “You’re restricting some of the people who can have the strongest impact on our young people from being able to serve our young people.”

Lifetime bans on employment make it difficult for rehabilitation. Employment is one of the main barriers to ex-offenders staying out of prison. Especially when someone was already reformed their life, it makes little sense to further penalize them for something they did years ago.

Some have suggested Act 24 allow for exceptions. But for now, that isn’t the case. Schools are required to get rid of those employees that fall under the ban, no matter how bad they would like to keep them around.

Employment is just one area that can be impacted by a criminal conviction. If you are facing criminal charges, you want to avoid a conviction whenever possible. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and what can be done to minimize its effect on your life.