Can I Teach With a Felony Conviction In Oregon? 

Teacher in Classroom

Like many other states, Oregon is experiencing a teacher shortage. With schools struggling to hire and retain qualified people to educate our kids, it may seem like the perfect time to pursue a teaching career. But, the staffing issues at many Oregon schools haven’t changed the state licensing requirements, which can be quite stringent. 

In fact, Oregon law contains a long list of convictions that will disqualify someone from receiving an Oregon teaching license, or related licenses and registrations such as an administrative license, personnel service, or registration as a public charter school teacher or administrator. And, even convictions for crimes that aren’t on the list can be an obstacle to getting a teaching or related license. 

Convictions That Disqualify You from Getting an Oregon Teaching License

Crimes that may disqualify you from receiving an Oregon teaching license or one of the related licenses or registrations listed above fall into two categories. Those convicted of crimes on the first list are categorically disqualified from receiving the license. This list includes mainly crimes of violence, sex crimes, certain drug crimes, and violation of statutes intended to protect children. They include: 

  • Aggravated murder, murder in the first degree or murder in the second degree
  • Assault in the first degree
  • Kidnapping in the first degree
  • Rape in the first, second, or third degree
  • Sodomy in the first, second, or third degree
  • Unlawful sexual penetration in the first or second degree
  • Sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degree
  • Online sexual corruption of a child in the first or second degree
  • Contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Public indecency
  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • Child neglect in the first degree
  • Endangering the welfare of a minor
  • Using child in display of sexually explicit conduct
  • Encouraging child sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degree
  • Possession of materials depicting sexually explicit conduct of a child in the first or second degree
  • Arson in the first degree
  • Robbery in the first degree
  • Treason
  • Abuse of a corpse in the first degree
  • Prostitution
  • Commercial sexual solicitation
  • Promoting prostitution
  • Compelling prostitution
  • Luring a minor
  • Sadomasochistic abuse or sexual conduct in a live show
  • Exhibiting an obscene performance to a minor
  • Displaying obscene materials to minors
  • Publicly displaying nudity or sex for advertising purposes
  • Unlawful delivery of hydrocodone
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of hydrocodone within 1,000 feet of a school
  • Unlawful delivery of methadone
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of methadone within 1,000 feet of a school 
  • Unlawful delivery of oxycodone
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of oxycodone within 1,000 feet of a school 
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of 3,4-methylene-dioxymethamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school
  • Unlawful delivery of cocaine
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school
  • Unlawful delivery of methamphetamine
  • Unlawful manufacture or delivery of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school 
  • Delivery of a controlled substance to a minor

*The attempt of any of the crimes listed above

*Crimes in another jurisdiction that are substantially equivalent to any of the crimes listed above

The second, shorter list contains crimes which may, in the discretion of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC), be grounds for denial of a license. They include: 

  • Any crime involving the illegal use, sale, or possession of controlled substances
  • A wide range of cannabis-related crimes

It is important to note that expungement or set aside is possible with some of these crimes, after which the conviction cannot be used against you. 

However, these lists aren’t exhaustive. That can be confusing when you’re looking at the statutory list. The fact that the statute calls out these two types of crimes that may disqualify an applicant at the discretion of the TSPC may seem to suggest that they’re the only ones. But, the reality isn’t that straightforward.

Discretionary Denials - The Gray Zone

The application for a teaching license and other educational licenses in Oregon includes a character section. In that section, applicants are required to disclose criminal convictions and arrests that have not yet been resolved. 

Oregon Administrative Rule 584-020-0040 allows for disciplinary action or denial of a license if the applicant or license holder has “ been convicted of a crime not listed in section (1) of this rule, if the Commission finds that the nature of the act or acts constituting the crime for which the educator was convicted render the educator unfit to hold a license.” This broad discretion makes it very difficult for someone with a criminal conviction–especially a felony conviction–to know whether or not they are eligible for an Oregon teaching license. 

Concealment is not the answer. Under Oregon law ORS 342.223, hiding a conviction or pending charge can result in disqualification–even if the actual charge or conviction itself would not have resulted in disqualification. So, it is important to answer character questions honestly. In fact, any false statement on the application can result in denial or revocation of a teaching license. 

Is There Any Way to Teach with a Disqualifying Conviction in Oregon? 

Private School Teacher Standards May Differ

In Oregon, private school teachers aren’t legally required to hold a teaching license. In fact, with limited exceptions, Oregon private schools are not necessarily required to register with the state, nor to conduct background checks and fingerprint teachers and other employees. So, a conviction that would disqualify a person from receiving a teaching license won’t necessarily prevent them from teaching in a private school. However, it is strongly recommended that a private institution conduct a similar background check. Many private schools have higher standards than are required by law.

Overall, the exception to the licensing requirement for public schools may open a relatively narrow window of opportunity for someone legally unable to obtain a teaching license. But, that will depend on the crime in question and potentially on the individual school.

Clearing Your Criminal Record

For many people who have disqualifying or potentially disqualifying convictions who want to teach, the best option is to talk with an attorney and explore expungement or set aside. 

What is Expungement and Set Aside?

In simple terms, expungement (also known as “expunction”) is a legal process that removes a criminal conviction from your record. Expungement can clear the way to obtaining a teaching licensing or qualifying for a job that a past conviction might otherwise have prevented. But, not every conviction is eligible for expungement. And, there’s a waiting period that varies depending on the crime. The best source of information about whether your conviction may qualify for expungement is an experienced Oregon expungement attorney. 

Fortunately, Oregon expungement law recently changed for the better. Under the new law, more charges qualify for expungement, including Class B felony drug charges that previously weren’t eligible. The timelines have changed, too. The least serious crimes can now be expunged after just one year. And, the waiting period for Class B felonies has been reduced to seven years. 

Next Steps Toward Teaching after a Criminal Conviction

If teaching is your dream, don’t assume that a criminal conviction is an immovable obstacle. Many of the crimes that disqualify a person from receiving an Oregon teaching license can be expunged–some of them after just a few years. 

At Lohrke Law, we help people clear their records, restore their rights, and reclaim their lives after a criminal conviction. That process starts with accurate information, so we offer free consultations to people looking to clear Oregon criminal convictions. Schedule your consultation now by calling 541-357-6788 or filling out the contact form on this site.