Tennessee Teacher Gets His License Back Despite Statutory Rape Conviction
A Tennessee teacher previously convicted of statutory rape will have his teaching license reinstated after a judge ordered the state to do so.
Per a report from The Tennessean, the teacher—William S. Haynes, who worked as a physical education teacher in Moore County until 2007—was convicted of statutory rape after engaging in a sexual relationship with a teenaged student. He lost his teaching license and was put on probation for four years for the offense but avoided prison time. The Tennessean noted that Haynes didn’t have to register as a sex offender, but didn’t explain why. In Tennessee, convictions for statutory rape usually merit sex offender status.
When his probation ended in 2011, Haynes petitioned the court to have his criminal record expunged, coverage notes. His petition was granted, and his record was expunged. However, when Haynes approach the Tennessee State Board of Education to apply for a teaching license again, his application was denied.
That first denial took place in 2012, one year after Haynes had his record expunged, reports explain. Due to the expungement, Haynes argued that the state had no legal grounds to deny him a teaching license. He took the case to court and in 2015, a judge ruled in his favor: Haynes didn’t fit the criteria that the State Board of Education can use to disqualify teaching applicants. The judge ordered the Board of Education to take another vote on Haynes’ case. That vote took place in April, and the Board voted 7-2 to reinstate his license. Board members indicated in reports that they felt they had little choice in the matter.
Currently, coverage identifies, Tennessee is in the process of implementing new rules that affect how teachers are disciplined for misconduct. Those rules will give the State Board of Education more power to decide who should be issued a teaching license. The Board will also have the power to permanently revoke teaching licenses over “severe misconduct”—such as inappropriate communication or contact with students. The attorney for the Board of Education noted that if the new rules had been implemented, Haynes likely would not have been able to get his license reinstated even with a criminal record expungement.
The highly-publicized nature of Haynes’ fight to have his license reinstated will mean that most school districts in the state—and many parents—know about his history, coverage notes. Expunged offenses don’t show up on background checks. If a criminal conviction has been expunged, employers are not allowed to consider it when deciding whether to hire an applicant. Schools in the state will be expected to ignore Haynes’ criminal history when reviewing his application.