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Financial Impropriety in Teaching

The news seems to be replete with examples of teachers making poor choices that lead to unwanted employment and criminal consequences. These cases may involve teachers accused of misappropriating funds from a school function or diverting money from a school organization into their private accounts or possibly teachers working outside of their school who become involved in some financial mismanagement, theft or deceit. In many of these situations, the teachers were facing some personal or financial challenges that contributed to the misconduct. Regardless of the motivating factors, however, the professional and employment outcome for conduct that constitutes certain crimes is often predetermined. For example, the Professional Educator Discipline Act (Act) mandates that the PSPC revoke the certificate of any teacher convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. A crime constitutes moral turpitude if it involves:

  1. That element and personal misconduct in the private and social duties which a person owes to his fellow human beings or to society in general, which characterizes the act done as an act of baseness, vileness or depravity, and contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between two human beings;
  2. Conduct done knowingly contrary to justice, honesty or good morals; or
  3. Intentional, knowing or reckless conduct causing bodily injury to another or intentional, knowing or reckless conduct which, by physical menace, puts another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

22 Pa. Code §237.9.

Interestingly, many of the crimes that have been found to involve moral turpitude may not appear directly related to a teacher's certification status or his or her ability to teach. Nonetheless, whenever a crime is defined in the Crimes Code by a reference to fraud or dishonesty, deceit, such crimes have been found to involve moral turpitude. Under the Act, any conviction of such a crime mandates revocation. To see crimes related to moral turpitude, visit the PSPC website and search adjudications.

Additionally, the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct makes the ethical expectations with respect to financial integrity clear in Section 9:

The professional educator may not:

1) Accept gratuities, gifts or favors that might impair or appear to impair professional judgment.

2) Exploit a professional relationship for personal gain or advantage.

22 Pa. Code §235.9.

While the Act and the Code are not intended to identify every possible example of misconduct that could occur, they serve as a guide for the professional and personal behavior of teachers in the Commonwealth.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think that the Act includes crimes involving moral turpitude as an area that would cause a teacher's certification to be revoked?
  2. Look at the crimes that are listed on the PSPC website. All of the crimes would impact a teacher's certification status. Do any of the crimes surprise you as being relevant to a teacher's certification status?