TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ State education officials cannot retroactively apply a 2008 law to revoke the licenses of teachers who have prior misdemeanor convictions for battery on a minor, an appellate court ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed the state's revocation of a Palm Beach County teacher's license. The judges ruled the Legislature never intended for the law to be retroactive and if it did, that would be unconstitutional.
“Even where the Legislature has expressly stated that a statute will apply retroactively, reviewing courts must reject such an application if the statute impairs a vested right, creates a new obligation, or imposes a new penalty,'' Judge Paul Hawkes wrote in the unanimous opinion.
Hawkes added that teachers have a vested property interest in their teaching certificates.
The Education Practices Commission impaired Daniel Presmy's property rights by attaching new legal consequences to something that happened before the law was enacted, he wrote.
“He's been waiting a very long time for this,'' said one of Presmy's lawyers, Jeffrey Sirmons. “I'm really glad at the very least we're putting a very good teacher back to work.''
The ruling likely will affect other teachers, Sirmons said.
Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters declined comment because the case likely will return to the commission.
Presmy pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery on a minor for something that happened two years before the law came about. Evidence showed he used his fingertips to push a disruptive third-grader out of his classroom.
The school board initially suspended Presmy and then tried to fire him, but he appealed to the state commission and was reinstated.
The commission adopted an administrative law judge's recommended order that no ethics or professional conduct codes were violated.
The judge found there was no intention or a reasonable expectation that his action would cause harm. Also, there was no evidence it impaired the effectiveness of the school system or that the student was embarrassed or disparaged, the judge wrote.
After the law was passed, though, a second administrative hearing was held and the commission adopted a new recommended order revoking Presmy's certificate.