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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 02-2270




[22 PA. CODE CH. 237]

Definitions of Statutory Terms

[32 Pa.B. 6256]

   The Professional Standards and Practices Commission (Commission) adopts amendments to Chapter 237 (relating to definitions of statutory terms). The final-form rulemaking is made under the authority of sections 5(a)(11) and 9.2 of the Professional Educator Discipline Act (act) (24 P. S. §§ 2070.5(a)(11) and 2070.9b).

   The Commission was created by the act of December 12, 1973 (P. L. 397, No. 141) as amended by the act of November 21, 2000 (P. L. 918, No. 123) (Act 123). By virtue of the act, the General Assembly has empowered the Commission to discipline professional educators and charter school staff members. In addition, the General Assembly directed the Commission to establish definitions consistent with its authority to discipline under sections 5(a)(11) and 9.2 of the act. Accordingly, the Commission promulgated definitions in Chapter 237 in May of 1994. The Commission now adopts a final-form rulemaking to amend the definitions found in Chapter 237.

   Notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 32 Pa.B. 2994 (June 22, 2002) with an invitation to submit written comments within 30 days. On September 9, 2002, the Commission voted to adopt the rulemaking as proposed. On November 7, 2002, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted to approve the rulemaking as proposed.


   Chapter 237 establishes definitions under sections 5(a) (11) and 9.2 of the act. The act recently was amended by Act 123 and this final-form rulemaking reflects the amendments to the act.

Summary of Regulations

   The most significant new requirements under the final-form rulemaking are:

   1.  The recognition of the extended jurisdiction of the Commission to discipline charter school staff members, as well as professional educators, as contemplated by the recent amendments to the act.

   2.  The standard for ''morals of a community'' within the definition of immorality has been changed from a local standard to a Statewide standard to comport with the overall mission of the Commission.

   3.  A definition for the term ''surrender in lieu of discipline'' has been added to this chapter to reflect the recent amendments to the act, which designated a surrender in lieu of discipline as a specific type of discipline. The most significant impact of this designation is that surrenders in lieu of discipline are now considered public under the act.

Public Comments

   The Commission received no public comments during the official public comment period. In addition, neither the House Education Committee nor the Senate Education Committee submitted comments. The Commission did consider the comments submitted by IRRC on August 22, 2002.

   In its comments, IRRC objected to the phrase ''morals of the Commonwealth'' within the definition of ''immorality'' in § 237.3 (relating to immorality) as vague and undefined. The Commission is entrusted with the responsibility of determining the present, continuing and future fitness and ability of a person to serve as a professional educator in this Commonwealth. In exercising its responsibilities, the Commission must consider the Statewide impact and effect of its decisions, as distinguished from individual employment or contractual discipline imposed by a local school entity. The vagaries of any one community's standards within this Commonwealth cannot be allowed to determine the level and extent of discipline against Commonwealth issued certification. Accordingly, the Commission decided that the appropriate moral standard should emanate from the Commonwealth community at large and not the community attendant to the educator's place of employment.

   While the concept of the ''morals of the Commonwealth,'' as well as the ''morals of the community,'' is not defined specifically, the concepts have acquired a well-established construction through judicial and Commission decisions. The construction of the concept, as applied by the courts and the Commission, does not lend itself to definitive explication. As is true with any adjudicatory matter, professional discipline should be decided on a case-by-case basis, after consideration of all relevant facts and circumstances as presented in a due process hearing. The nature of the conduct within any particular context is critical to the Commission's determination in each case. In the judgment of the Commission, it would be inappropriate and imprudent, not to mention nearly impossible, to condense the breadth of the concept into any single comprehensive statement. The Commission thus respectfully disagrees with IRRC that the phrase ''morals of the Commonwealth'' needs further clarification.

   With respect to § 237.9 (relating to crimes involving moral turpitude), IRRC had two comments. First, IRRC suggested that the Commission include specific examples or descriptions of actions that constitute ''moral turpitude'' within the definition. As with the concept of ''morals of the Commonwealth,'' the Commission does not believe that the inclusion of specific examples within the definition is warranted. To the contrary, the Commission believes that the inclusion of examples might actually prove misleading and may lead to unintended limitations of the Commission's adjudicatory discretion.

   In addition, specific applications of the definition of ''moral turpitude'' can be found in countless judicial decisions in this Commonwealth as well as in the adjudications of the Commission. The Commission does not wish to replace well-established judicially crafted definitions with specific examples.

   Finally, IRRC commented on § 237.9(c), which sets forth the mechanism for the Commission to consider crimes added or deleted from section 111(e) of the Public School Code of 1949 (code) (24 P. S. § 1-111(e)) to determine if the crimes involve moral turpitude per se. IRRC advised the Commission to include the criteria for determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude within the definition.

   The Commission believes that Chapter 237 already establishes the criteria for the moral turpitude determination. Section 237.9 specifically mandates that the Commission, in determining whether a specific crime involves moral turpitude, limit its consideration to the elements of the crime as juxtaposed against the stated definition of ''moral turpitude.'' The underlying facts of each case are not relevant. Under § 237.1 (relating to purpose), the Commission may look to judicial interpretations and decisions of the Secretary of Education for guidance in the prescribed analysis. It is the opinion of the Commission that the moral turpitude determination does not need further elaboration.

   IRRC also queried how the Commission will notify the public of its decisions relating to crimes that are added to or deleted from section 111(e) of the code. The Commission's decisions are made in public at its regularly scheduled and advertised meetings. In addition, its written decisions are available to the public with the exception of those decisions that remain confidential under the act. The Commission agrees that its decisions, in this area as well as in others, should be more readily accessible to the public. To that end, the Commission will publish in its Annual Report a more comprehensive summary of its decisions, including the grounds for discipline, the level of discipline imposed and the crimes that have been determined to involve moral turpitude. The Commission does not believe, however, that the regulations need to specify the particular means of communicating its decisions to the public.

Affected Parties

   Chapter 237 primarily affects all professional educators who have been certified by the Department of Education, as well as charter school staff members, who are employed by a charter school in a position for which Commonwealth certification would be required in a public school other than a charter school, but who are not required to hold State certification under section 1724-A of the code (24 P. S. § 17-1724-A).

Cost and Paperwork Estimates

   The final-form rulemaking will not create any additional costs or paperwork for affected parties, which include professional educators, charter school staff members, local school districts and the Department.

Effective Date

   This final-form rulemaking will become effective upon final-form publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Sunset Date

   The Commission will review the effectiveness of Chapter 237 on an ongoing basis. Thus, no sunset date is necessary.

Regulatory Review

   Under section 5(a) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5(a)), on October 8, 2002, the Commission submitted a copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking, published at 32 Pa.B. 2994, to IRRC and to the Chairpersons of the House and Senate Committees on Education for review and comment.

   Under section 5(c) of the Regulatory Review Act, IRRC and the Committees were provided with copies of the comments received during the public comment period, as well as other documents when requested. In preparing this final-form rulemaking, the Commission has considered the comments received from IRRC, the Committees and the public.

   Under section 5.1(d) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5a(d)), on November 28, 2002, this final-form rulemaking was deemed approved by the House and Senate Committees. Under section 5.1(e) of the Regulatory Review Act, IRRC met on November 7, 2002, and approved the final-form rulemaking.

Contact Person

   Questions or comments should be directed to Carolyn Angelo, Executive Director, Professional Standards and Practices Commission, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333, (717) 787-6576. Alternative formats of the final-form rulemaking (for example, Braille, large print or cassette tape) can be made available to members of the public upon request to Carolyn Angelo at the previous telephone number.


   The Commission finds that:

   (1)  Public notice of the intention to adopt the regulations was given under sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P. L. 769, No. 240) (45 P. S. §§ 1201 and 1202) and the regulations promulgated thereunder at 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1 and 7.2.

   (2)  The regulations are necessary and appropriate for the administration of the act.


   The Commission, acting under authorizing statute, orders that:

   (a)  The regulations of the Commission, 22 Pa. Code Chapter 237, are amended by amending §§ 237.1--237.4, 237.8 and 237.9; by deleting § 237.6; and by adding § 237.10 to read as set forth at 32 Pa.B. 2994.

   (b)  The Executive Director of the Commission shall submit this order and 32 Pa.B. 2994 to the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Attorney General for review and approval as to legality and form as required by law.

   (c)  The Executive Director of the Commission shall certify this order and 32 Pa.B. 2994 and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau, as required by law.

   (d)  This order will take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Executive Director

   (Editor's Note: For the text of the order of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, relating to this document, see 32 Pa.B. 5816 (November 23, 2002).)

   Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 6-274 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulations.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 02-2270. Filed for public inspection December 20, 2002, 9:00 a.m.]

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