Teacher with DUI: California Commission for Teacher Credentialing (CTC) Cannot Automatically Suspend or Revoke Credential

If a teacher has a DUI conviction, can the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) utilize a “per se” standard and conclude that the person is aromatically disqualified as a matter of law from teaching in California?  The answer is no.  In the case of Broney v. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the court rejected use of a  “per se” rule. 

The court held that the state cannot merely cite the fact of a DUI conviction and proceed to suspend or revoke a teaching credential. Instead, the state must affirmatively demonstrate that the person is unfit to teach, and that must be done by applying the 7-factor test established by the California Supreme Court in Morrison v. State Board of Education, 1 Cal.3d 214 (1969). The seven factors include:

1) The likelihood that the conduct may have adversely affected students or fellow teachers and the degree of such adversity anticipated;
2) The proximity or remoteness in time of the conduct;
3) The type of teaching certificate held by the party involved;
4) The extenuating or aggravating circumstances, if any, surrounding the conduct;
5) The praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the motives resulting in the conduct;
6) The likelihood of the recurrence of the questioned conduct; and
7) The extent to which disciplinary action may inflict an adverse impact or chilling effect upon the constitutional rights of the teacher involved or other teachers. 

These factors have now been incorporated into an administrative regulation (see 5 Cal. Admin. Code. § 80302.)

However, the case did not end well for the teacher.  She didn’t just have a single DUI conviction. She had three of them.  The CTC had suspended her teaching credential after reviewing the Morrison factors and finding her unfit; the trial court affirmed that ruling, but utilized a “per se” test, finding that the third DUI rendered the teacher unfit “as a matter of law.”  The trial then proceeded to utilize the Morrison factors in assessing the penalty – a 60 day suspension and related conditions – and ruled that the CTC acted within its authority.

Although the appellate panel disagreed with the trial court’s use of a “per se” rule on the unfitness issue, it also concluded that the error was harmless.  It reasoned that the trial court would have come to the same conclusion had it utilized the Morrison factors instead of a per se rule on the issue of fitness to teach.

For your convenience, a complete copy of the court’s opinion is attached.

At Slote & Links, we regularly advise individuals whose licenses are in jeopardy, and we also counsel parents, teachers, school administrators, and public and private schools on education law issues.

PDF icon Broney v. CTC (DUI credential case).pdf194.63 KB
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