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I-TEAM gives parents tools to uncover a teacher's history in classroom

Credentials of school teachers in Florida, Georgia available online

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you are like many parents, you make it a point to get to know the friends your child spends time with. But, what do you really know about the teachers your son or daughter sees every day?

Do you know if your child’s teacher has a checkered past? Have they ever had their teaching certification suspended or revoked? Or have they been reprimanded by the state for a violation?

Almost every state education agency has some kind of system or method that enables members of the public, to verify and review the credentials of public school teachers. But only a few states -- including Florida and Georgia -- publicly post complete documents with details about why a teacher’s certification was suspended or revoked.

Public databases on teachers  

Whether your child has just one teacher or several different teachers, in Florida and Georgia, you can find out about each educator with just a few clicks online.

Information from the Florida Department of Education portal and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission include a teacher's:

  • Degree
  • Special area of study 
  • Date his/her license expires 
  • If his/her license has been revoked or suspended 

The online teacher databases are so detailed you can view specific corrective actions ordered by the state.

While we aren't going to single out any particular teacher, here's an overview of what we found looking county-by-county in Florida's portal.

   Duval County (since 2016)
  • 20 teachers had their certifications revoked
  • 67 teachers’ certifications were suspended for 2 - 5 years 
  • 31 teachers’ certifications were either suspended for one year, issued a letter of reprimand, or put on probation 
   St. Johns County (since 2000)
  • 15 teachers had their certifications revoked
  • 29 teachers were suspended for 2 - 5 years 
  • 18 were either suspended for one year, issued a letter of reprimand, or put on probation
   Clay County (since 2000)
  • 10 teachers have been stripped of their certification
  • 24 teachers were suspended for 2 - 5 years
  • 15 teachers were either suspended one year, issued a letter of reprimand, or put on probation

While Florida and Georgia's teacher databases are detailed, each only lists information about a teacher's career in that particular state. So, if a teacher comes from another state, it's more difficult to get information -- because many other states don't make this kind of background information public.

Currently in Maryland, Maine, New Jersey Massachusetts, Idaho, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, information on educator credentials is not available online to the public. Instead, parents are required to submit their inquiries to the district and wait on a response. 

However, there is a privately-run national database called the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Clearinghouse. It's the nation’s primary centralized system for tracking teacher discipline. 

School districts have access to this information and use the data in their own background checks before hiring a teacher. 

It's important to note, when hiring local teachers and administrators, they must pass a series of background checks and screenings conducted by a district's certification team, which includes teachers being fingerprinted. School systems can also utilize the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as well as the FBI.

Many parents don't know a lot about their child's teachers

“How much interaction have you had with your teenagers' teachers?” we asked Bryn D'Agostino, who has a son and daughter in high school.

“None really," she answered. "Once the kids hit high school it becomes less and less. The schools are teaching them to be more independent at that point."

D’Agostino said she didn’t know Florida has a teacher database that could provide her with complete background information. She says that information is important because some of her kids' teachers are also coaches.

“It's the majority of their day with their teachers and after-school activities,” said D’Agostino.  

She told us the average high school student at her daughter's school has six to seven teachers daily, so it's virtually impossible to keep track of them all. But now that she knows, she can do her own research online.

"I think a lot of parents I know would utilize a database like that to know exactly who they're with and their background and anything that has come up in their past," she added.


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