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Jacksonville State Lawmaker’s Plan Would Disqualify Some Florida Educators

Lindsey Killbride

A Northeast Florida lawmaker is pushing to create a state “disqualification list” of educators who are barred from working in schools.

Representative Wyman Duggan’s (R-Jacksonville) House Bill (HB 1127), which unanimously cleared the Education Committee Tuesday, would create an additional tool in the Department of Education for schools to vet applicants during the hiring process.

School districts already vet employees through a criminal background check, but Duggan said that’s not enough.

“The issue is under the current law you have to be convicted of a felony. This would widen that net to catch people who’ve been arrested and charged, awaiting final disposition,” he said.

“We don’t want those bad actors to be in direct contact with school kids,” said Duggan, who added they’ll come off the list if they’re exonerated.

Schools would be required to deny employment to anyone who appears on the disqualification list.

The state already has a database of certified teachers, but the disqualification list would also include contract staff, board members and private school operators involved in disciplinary actions.  

Duggan said the current reality is school personnel can evade discipline through various means.

“They either leave the school, or they resign, or they’re not subject to the level of regulation if they’re not a certificated teacher,” he said. “They can leave and go somewhere else and be hired again.”

The bill’s Senate (SB 1444) companion, sponsored by Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, unanimously cleared the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Tuesday.

Duggan’s bill now heads to the full House.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, or on Twitter at @abukaradan17.