Florida Senate - 2015                                     SB 888
       By Senator Detert
       28-00850A-15                                           2015888__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to educator professional practices;
    3         amending s. 39.202, F.S.; authorizing certain
    4         employees or agents of the Department of Education to
    5         have access to certain reports and records; amending
    6         s. 1012.79, F.S.; revising the membership of the
    7         Education Practices Commission; authorizing the
    8         Commissioner of Education to appoint emeritus members
    9         to the commission; amending s. 1012.796, F.S.;
   10         authorizing the commissioner to issue a letter of
   11         guidance in response to a complaint against a teacher
   12         or administrator in lieu of a probable cause
   13         determination; providing an effective date.
   15  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   17         Section 1. Present paragraphs (q) through (s) of subsection
   18  (2) of section 39.202, Florida Statutes, are redesignated as
   19  paragraphs (r) through (t), respectively, and a new paragraph
   20  (q) is added to that subsection, to read:
   21         39.202 Confidentiality of reports and records in cases of
   22  child abuse or neglect.—
   23         (2) Except as provided in subsection (4), access to such
   24  records, excluding the name of the reporter which shall be
   25  released only as provided in subsection (5), shall be granted
   26  only to the following persons, officials, and agencies:
   27         (q) An employee or agent of the Department of Education who
   28  is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of
   29  misconduct by a certified educator.
   30         Section 2. Subsection (1) of section 1012.79, Florida
   31  Statutes, is amended to read:
   32         1012.79 Education Practices Commission; organization.—
   33         (1) The Education Practices Commission is composed consists
   34  of the following 25 members: 10, including 8 teachers; 5
   35  administrators, at least one of whom represents shall represent
   36  a private or virtual school; 4 7 lay citizens who are, 5 of whom
   37  shall be parents of public school students and who are unrelated
   38  to public school employees; and 2 of whom shall be former
   39  charter school governing board or district school board members
   40  or former superintendents, assistant superintendents, or deputy
   41  superintendents; and 4 5 sworn law enforcement officials,
   42  appointed by the State Board of Education from nominations by
   43  the Commissioner of Education and subject to Senate
   44  confirmation. Prior to making nominations, the commissioner
   45  shall consult with teaching associations, parent organizations,
   46  law enforcement agencies, and other involved associations in the
   47  state. In making nominations, the commissioner shall attempt to
   48  achieve equal geographical representation, as closely as
   49  possible.
   50         (a) A teacher member, in order to be qualified for
   51  appointment:
   52         1. Must be certified to teach in the state.
   53         2. Must be a resident of the state.
   54         3. Must have practiced the profession in this state for at
   55  least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment.
   56         (b) A school administrator member, in order to be qualified
   57  for appointment:
   58         1. Must have an endorsement on the educator certificate in
   59  the area of school administration or supervision.
   60         2. Must be a resident of the state.
   61         3. Must have practiced the profession as an administrator
   62  for at least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment.
   63         (c) All The lay members must be residents of the state.
   64         (d) The law enforcement official members must have served
   65  in the profession for at least 5 years immediately preceding
   66  appointment and have background expertise in child safety.
   67         (e) The Commissioner of Education, upon request or
   68  recommendation from the commission, may also appoint up to 5
   69  emeritus members from the commission’s prior membership to serve
   70  1-year terms. Notwithstanding any prior service on the
   71  commission, an emeritus member may serve up to five 1-year
   72  terms. An emeritus member serves as a voting member at a
   73  discipline hearing and as a consulting but nonvoting member
   74  during a business meeting.
   75         Section 3. Subsection (3) of section 1012.796, Florida
   76  Statutes, is amended to read:
   77         1012.796 Complaints against teachers and administrators;
   78  procedure; penalties.—
   79         (3) The department staff shall advise the commissioner
   80  concerning the findings of the investigation. The department
   81  general counsel or members of that staff shall review the
   82  investigation and advise the commissioner concerning probable
   83  cause or lack thereof. The determination of probable cause shall
   84  be made by the commissioner. The commissioner shall provide an
   85  opportunity for a conference, if requested, prior to determining
   86  probable cause. The commissioner may enter into deferred
   87  prosecution agreements in lieu of finding probable cause if, in
   88  his or her judgment, such agreements are in the best interests
   89  of the department, the certificateholder, and the public. Such
   90  deferred prosecution agreements shall become effective when
   91  filed with the clerk of the Education Practices Commission.
   92  However, a deferred prosecution agreement may shall not be
   93  entered into if there is probable cause to believe that a felony
   94  or an act of moral turpitude, as defined by rule of the State
   95  Board of Education, has occurred. Upon finding no probable
   96  cause, the commissioner shall dismiss the complaint. In lieu of
   97  a finding of probable cause, the commissioner may also issue a
   98  letter of guidance to the educator.
   99         Section 4. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.