A criminal conviction is grounds for dismissal for a school employee, but what happens if a charge is still pending? The answer depends on where you work and the nature of the job.
The issue arose after it was learned that a Williamsburg-James City County Schools administrator who has regular contact with students was charged with soliciting a prostitute in Norfolk. The count was dismissed and thus no charges are pending.
Assistant Superintendent Scott Burckbuchler said in an interview he was unaware any employee was facing such a charge.
York and Newport News school divisions have clear policies requiring employees to report a criminal charge. WJCC has no such policy, instead relying on self-reporting from its employees or upon police reports.
Jon Andre, WJCC Human Resources director, said state agencies and law enforcement personnel who knowingly arrest a teacher or school division employee are required to file a report with Central Office.
It's unlikely Norfolk Police knew the WJCC employee's profession. He was issued a misdemeanor summons and released, according to the arrest report.
Norfolk Police spokesman Chris Amos explained the man was caught in a prostitution sting at a Norfolk motel Feb. 4.
In a brief interview, the administrator said the case was dismissed as a "misunderstanding." He said he did not inform division officials, saying WJCC policy requires reporting only if there is a conviction.
Burckbuchler said whenever an offense is not specifically covered by State Code, professional judgment comes into play. Andre said the division looks at the nature of the charge and the job itself to determine if the two have a direct correlation. York Schools and Newport News Schools do the same.
Andre said a bus driver charged with a DUI or a bookkeeper with a fraudulent check charge would be handled differently than someone with a charge unrelated to their job.
York Schools requires employees charged with a crime to report it to their supervisor on the next workday or within 48 hours. Failure to notify is grounds for dismissal. Newport News also requires notification.
In most cases, employees with pending felony charges are usually suspended for the duration of the case. Conviction usually results in termination.
But misdemeanors charges are more complicated. Many offenses, including sexual assault, obscenity, drug possession and child abuse or neglect, may merit suspension without a hearing or School Board approval. The suspension can be with or without pay, said Betsy Overkamp-Smith, York Schools spokeswoman.
She explained if the suspension is without pay, the forfeited money is placed in an escrow account for up to a year. Should the charge be dismissed or the employee found not guilty, the money is reimbursed, less anything the employee earned in the interim.