Can a Person With a Felony Conviction Become a Teacher in Illinois?
Title 23 of the Illinois Administrative Code establishes the requirements for working as a teacher in Illinois. Along with these qualifications, the law defines disqualifications that can prevent an individual from obtaining or renewing a teacher certificate in the state. Under the law, whether a person with a felony can work as a teacher in Illinois depends upon the nature of his crimes.
Illinois law requires that all certified teachers be of "good character." Certain types of criminal convictions are viewed as indicators that the individuals lack good character, thus prohibiting them from receiving a teaching certificate and working in Illinois. Felony convictions involving sex, narcotics and drugs automatically disqualify a person from obtaining a teaching certificate. Any teacher convicted of a felony related to one of these crimes will have her teaching certificate revoked.
Under Illinois law, all other felony convictions outside of those related to sex, narcotics and drugs are considered on a case-by-case basis. To be considered for a teaching certificate, the sentence for the conviction must have been completed at least one year before the date of the candidate's application for a teaching certificate. The law defines the sentence as including jail time, home incarceration and probation. Prior to issuing a teaching certificate, the Illinois State Board of Education conducts a background check on all applicants. Anyone found to have lied about a criminal conviction in order to conceal his crimes is automatically ineligible for a teaching certificate, regardless of the nature of the crimes.
The application for an Illinois teaching certificate asks if a candidates has been convicted of a crime. An applicant who answers "yes" must include a certified court record of the conviction as well as a written statement that describes the events surrounding the crime in her own words. Candidates with felony convictions must also submit letters of recommendation from civic leaders, employers and other people who know the candidates from educational, community or work-related settings. Once the Illinois State Board of Education receives the application and required supporting documents, the superintendent of the board will review the information and make a determination whether to issue a teaching certificate based on the provided information.
A person who has previously been involved in a report of child abuse or neglect must also take special steps when applying for an Illinois teaching certificate, even if no criminal conviction came from the incident. Those with a history of reports must submit copies of the reports, a written statement about the incident and her relationships with the children involved, and letters of recommendation. The superintendent will review the information and determine whether issuing a license is appropriate. Under the law, unless the reports were revoked or rated as unfounded, individuals with such history are generally ineligible for licensing.