A 37-year-old teacher at a school district outside of Philadelphia was recently charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children and Corruption of Minors after allowing a student in her care to pierce the teacher's ear and another student's stomach. There is no allegation that the student that was pierced did not do so voluntarily or was injured in the incident. According to the online article from the York Daily Record, a piercing kit was actually used, so it appears that this was not a makeshift or unhealthy endeavor.
Are the Criminal Charges Appropriate?
A Pennsylvania charge of Corruption of Minors generally prohibits an adult from doing anything that corrupts the morals of a minor. Here, the woman was clearly an adult and the student was a minor, so the issue becomes whether or not allowing a piercing corrupted the morals of the minor. Corruption of Minors charges are often based upon the defendant's involvement in other criminal acts, such as Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor or engaging in sexual activity with the juvenile. Here, I do not believe that allowing a piercing of the stomach corrupted the morals of a minor. I am not saying that what the teacher did was correct, but I do not believe that her conduct rises to the level of Corruption of Minors, which is a serious offense as it is a first-degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to 5 years incarceration and a $10,000.00 fine.
The charge of Endangering the Welfare of Children prohibits a person in a supervisory role over a child from "knowingly endangering the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support." The teacher was clearly in a supervisory role of a child under the age of 18, so the issue becomes whether or not the teacher knowingly endangered the child. Arguably, since the piercing student used a piercing kit, there is an argument to be made that if the instructions on the kit were followed, then the piercing was done in a safe manner and thereby did not endanger the welfare of the child. Again, while I do not believe that the teacher should have allowed the piercing, I also do not believe that the teacher's actions rise to the level of criminal culpability.
If I were the parent of the pierced student, and my child was pierced without my permission, I admit that I would be upset with my child and upset with the teacher for allowing it, but I believe that the remedy should be the loss of the teacher's job, but not a criminal record.
First-Time Offender ARD Program
In my opinion, since the charges are not truly appropriate, the district attorney could resolve this case by permitting the teacher to participate in the first-time offender program known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Successful completion of the ARD program allows the criminal defendant to have the charges dismissed and then expunged. Failure to successfully complete the program results in the person's removal from the program, and the district attorney then resumes prosecution of the charges. Every county's ARD program is different, and an individual's ARD program can be customized to impose conditions or requirements that are particularly relevant to the charges of the fact pattern in a case. Generally, the Centre County ARD program for non-DUI offenses imposes 12 months of supervision by the probation department, completion of one day of community service in Centre County, and payment of court costs and fees.
The primary benefit of ARD is that it avoids a conviction and thereby allows for the expungement or destruction of the criminal records. An expungement is limited to the destruction of government records, so there are limitations to an expungement in that the records of private background search companies cannot be destroyed by court order. Many of the private companies are willing to remove records from their database as a courtesy if they are sent a copy of the court's expungement order.