Since the publication of Andy Staples’ article in Sports Illustrated last week there has been a large public outcry over Luther Campbell’s right to coach high school football. The former 2 Live Crew rapper whose sexual lyrics caused national controversy in the 80s and 90s has been coaching high school football in his native Miami-Dade county since 2009 with a temporary educator’s certificate that is set to expire after the 2012-2013 school year. To continue coaching Campbell will need a permanent Florida Educator’s Certificate, but Miami-Dade County requires coaches to have a background check and pass through the same process as a classroom teacher before they work with students.
As the director of the Liberty City Optimist Program and an assistant coach at Miami Northwestern high school, Campbell is respected in his community and well known as a role model for underprivileged children. His reputation earned him the recommendation of administrative law judge Robert Meale, but the Florida Department of Education has since appealed his recommendation.
“[Campbell’s Contribution to his community as a coach] is really not the issue,” said Florida Department of Education Press Secretary Cheryl Etters. “The issue is his application and what that brought with it.”
According to an administrative complaint from the Florida Department of Education, what Campbell’s application brought was dishonesty and disqualification.
The administrative complaint states that on an application for a Florida Educator’s Certificate on April 27, 2010 Luther Campbell was not forthcoming about his criminal record, which includes a 1985 loitering and carrying a concealed firearm charge, a 1987 improper exhibition of a firearm conviction, and a 2003 charge of aiding or procuring a person to expose private parts in a lewd and lascivious manner at a 2 Live Crew performance in South Carolina.
On his application Campbell failed to mention the 1985 charge of carrying a concealed firearm, and the 1987 conviction of improper exhibition of a firearm. According to Staples’ Sports Illustrated Article, Campbell claimed confusion while filling out the application but still provided the required fingerprints knowing that his complete criminal history would come up during a search.
Dishonesty on an application for an Educator’s Certificate is a violation of the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida, which lists specific obligations to students, the public, and the education profession as mandatory requirements for all education workers in Florida. Violating any of these principles is grounds for the revocation or suspension of a Florida educator’s certificate.
Yet, incorrect information on his application is only the beginning of Campbell’s violations of Florida education law.
Florida Statute 1012.795, which explains the Education Practices Commission’s authority to discipline states that a guilty plea or verdict to any crime is automatic grounds for the revocation of a teaching certificate, meaning that Campbell’s 1987 improper exhibition of a firearm conviction would prevent him from coaching high school football 25 years later.
However, that statement is ultimately irrelevant because Florida Statue 1012.795 also states that anyone in Florida who has ever been charged with a crime “regardless of adjudication of guilt” is ineligible for an educator’s certificate. This statute also disqualifies Campbell on subjective, vague reasons of “moral turpitude” because of the South Carolina 2 Live Crew incident in 2003.
The state of Florida had no problem with Campbell’s criminal record when he received 11% of the vote for mayor of Miami-Dade County last May, but each of these four violations is sufficient grounds to deny Campbell’s request for a permanent educator’s certificate and keep him from coaching high school football.
That said, Florida education officials have good reason to question Campbell’s application. Campbell has a proven criminal record outside of his involvement with 2 Live Crew, and was not completely honest on his application for a Florida educator’s certificate.
However, what they fail to realize is that moral character is constantly in flux and cannot be completely determined by past action. Campbell has never been perfect, but if he can’t progress from the mistakes of his past then the children he serves in some of Miami’s roughest neighborhoods will lose an indispensable role model. Education should be designed to give all students equal opportunity for success, and by fighting so hard to uphold bureaucracy Florida education officials have shown that they are out of touch with the students that they serve.
“These are not Xs and Os,” Campbell said in an interview with SportsRadio 610. “This is about saving kids, and trying to help them get to college or university… you can do something positive with you life with that education and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
There has currently been no decision made on the status of Luther Campbell’s application, and the case is scheduled for the next meeting of the Education Practices Commission on August 3 in Tallahassee. The decision on Campbell’s application is ultimately up to Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, and if Robinson rejects Meale’s recommendation Campbell can take his case to an appellate court.