Was Teacher's Criminal Record Expunged Prior to the Discharge Hearing

In District v. Carlson, 53 Pa. Commw. 568, 418 A.2d 810 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980), a teacher pled nolo contendere to a drug offense and received probation without verdict under section 17 of the Drug Act and expunction of the record under section 19 of the Drug Act. The school district, after a hearing, dismissed the teacher for immorality. The teacher filed an appeal with the Secretary of Education, who scheduled a hearing on the matter. On July 6, 1978, the teacher's record was expunged, and, the next day, a hearing was held before a hearing examiner. The parties stipulated at the hearing that the teacher's criminal record had been expunged. After considering the matter, the Secretary of Education reversed the teacher's dismissal because the criminal record, relied upon by the school district at its pre-termination hearing, had been expunged. Id. This court upheld the Secretary of Education's decision because: (1) a nolo contendere plea is admissible in subsequent proceedings only after a sentence has been imposed, i.e., a judgment has been entered; (2) no judgment had been entered on the teacher's plea of nolo contendere; (3) thus, it was error for the school district to admit the plea of nolo contendere at its pre-termination hearing. Id. In addition, the court stated that, because the Secretary of Education was the ultimate fact finder in the case and because there was a stipulation that the teacher's criminal record was expunged prior to the hearing before the hearing examiner, the Secretary of Education correctly concluded that he had no evidence before him to support a conclusion of immorality. Id.