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RUTH TECH v. WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD EDUCATION (05/31/77)

decided: May 31, 1977.

RUTH TECH, APPELLANT
v.
WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in case of Ruth Tech v. Wattsburg Area School District Board of Education, No. 4451-A-1975.

COUNSEL

Jay Bryan Schiegg, with him Shamp, Levin, Arduini and Hain, for appellant.

William T. Jorden, with him McClure, Dart, Miller & Kelleher, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.

Author: Wilkinson

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 355]

The question presented in this case is whether the Erie County Court of Common Pleas erred in its affirmance of appellee's dismissal of appellant as a school bus driver pursuant to Section 514 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 5-514. We find no error.

Appellant was a school bus driver for 15 years, during the last seven of which she was employed by appellee and drove one of the most lengthy and difficult bus runs in the district. She had not had a bus accident in which she was at fault on that run or at any other time as a school bus driver. During the early morning hours of October 11, 1975, while driving her family car, appellant lost control and the car swerved into a ditch and damaged a mailbox and residential driveway. No charges were filed against appellant.

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 356]

On October 15, 1975, appellant was notified by appellee's superintendent that, effective the next day, she was being suspended without pay pending a hearing. The suspension was based upon "verified information" that appellant had been involved in a hit and run accident on October 11, 1975 for which she had been arrested, and "other reports to the effect that [her] automobile insurance was cancelled because of other accidents and a poor driving record."

At the hearing, appellant testified that the accident of October 11, 1975, had occurred under unusual circumstances. She said she had been upset following a dispute with her husband, had gone to her mother's home nearby, had called to say she was returning home and subsequently had begun driving around aimlessly to "clear my mind." After she did not arrive home within a reasonable time, her husband took the family's other car to find her. Appellant said she was so startled at seeing the family's other car approaching that she lost control of her car and it swerved into a ditch. After appellant's son ascertained that the property owners were either asleep or not at home, appellant's husband and son took her to the hospital where she was later found to have suffered broken ribs. Appellant said her husband contacted the property owners, who were acquaintances of appellant, at approximately eight o'clock that morning. She said that she had made arrangements for restitution, a fact which was confirmed by the testimony of the property owner. The property owner testified further that he first learned the identity of the driver from the police, although an anonymous caller did confess responsibility at about eight o'clock that morning.

On the charge relating to her driving record, appellant admitted that she had had an accident while driving her family car in November 1974 (caused by a skid on an ice patch) and, on an earlier occasion,

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 357]

    had been given points for a speeding violation. She stated, however, that her automobile insurance had not been cancelled because of any accidents on her part. Rather, her family insurance had been cancelled because one of her sons had been involved in several accidents, but appellant and her husband were subsequently issued a standard policy covering themselves. She testified further as to her excellent record as a bus driver, the difficulty of her route, and that several of appellee's other drivers had been involved in bus accidents in which they had been at fault (including some in which the busses were carrying children), but had not been disciplined in any way. These statements as to her route and bus driving ability were supported by other ...


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