A co-principal of a Pennsylvania high school is facing possible disciplinary action from the school board after being arrested three times in the past four months.
According to reports, Punxsutawney Area High School co-principal Paul Hetrick, 45, was first arrested by police in September on suspicion of DUI. Subsequent testing found his blood-alcohol content was at twice the legal limit. He was then arrested in October and again in December for violating a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order that was issued against him.
In accordance with the school system's policy and procedures, Punxsutawney Area School Board was set to review the facts of Mr. Hetrick's case at their meeting on Jan. 5. As of the time of this writing, the results of the school board meeting had not been disclosed.
Possible Ramifications Beyond the Local School Board
The impact of this situation on Mr. Hetrick's career could extend beyond his current position. Regardless of what the Punxsutawney Area School Board decides, cases such as these can have farther-reaching ramifications beyond whether this school official is disciplined or fired—especially if he is convicted on any of the charges. For K-12 principals and other licensed school officials, criminal charges and PFA violations can have a direct impact on their licensure and teaching credentials by the state. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education has the authority to revoke or suspend a license in cases where criminal conduct violates any of the state's standards of professional practice.
How PFAs and DUIs Can Trigger License Investigations
Using the above case as an example, being arrested and charged with a crime does not automatically put a principal's credentials at risk—unless they are ultimately convicted. While a PFA would be less likely to trigger an investigation by the state licensing board because PFAs don't show up on criminal records, a violation of a PFA can result in a criminal conviction--at which point the courts would likely notify the State Board of Education. The same is true of a DUI conviction: the licensing board would likely be notified, possibly triggering a disciplinary investigation.
In the case above, the principal now faces three separate criminal charges, and being convicted for any of them could trigger a license investigation and possible loss of his credentials. (In other words, if you're a school principal in PA, a conviction has the potential not just to get you fired from your current position but to prevent you from working at any other school in the state.)
How a License Defense Attorney Can Help
The fact is, being convicted of a crime can have disastrous repercussions for any licensed professional, not just school principals. Pennsylvania's licensing boards take allegations of misconduct seriously and will review any criminal conviction to determine whether to disqualify the person from holding a license in the state. If you find yourself in a situation such as this one, an attorney knowledgeable in professional licensing defense can help protect your career. A good attorney can negotiate directly with the appropriate board to make sure all mitigating circumstances are taken into account and that you have the best chance of surviving the disciplinary process with your license or credentials intact.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps licensed professionals in PA, NJ, and NY whose licenses are in jeopardy. Contact us today for an appointment.