No. 187 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Decision and Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at No. 191 C.D. 1977, Affirming the Order of the Secretary of Education in Teacher Tenure Appeal No. 300.
Hayes C. Stover, Janice H. Anderson, Kirkpatrick, Lockhart, Johnson & Hutchison, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Ronald N. Watzman, Daniel R. Delaney, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Eagen, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case. O'Brien and Nix, JJ., concur, in the result. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
On July 17, 1975, appellee, Cheryl Rossetti, a fifth-grade teacher, requested a maternity leave from the Board of School Directors of Fox Chapel Area School District (the Board). The Board granted the requested maternity leave; and, upon a second request, it granted an additional four-week extension.*fn1 Appellee was to resume her teaching duties on January 13, 1976; but by letter of January 5, 1976,
appellee requested a leave of absence for the remainder of the 1975-76 school year. Appellee stated in this letter to the Superintendent of the Fox Chapel Area School District that her "duties as a new mother, which include breast-feeding" necessitated the requested leave of absence. The Superintendent responded by stating that the Collective Bargaining Agreement contained no provisions for child-rearing leave. On the day prior to the scheduled commencement of appellee's teaching duties, she and a field representative of the Pennsylvania State Education Association attempted to procure from the Board an unpaid leave of absence purportedly in order to breast-feed the child as a preventive measure against allergies.*fn2 This request was denied by the Board, and appellee refused to return to work and resume her teaching responsibilities even though so ordered.
On February 19, 1976, the Board filed charges of dismissal against appellee. Hearings were then held on these matters before the Board on March 4, 1976, and again on May 18, 1976. At the conclusion of these hearings, the Board voted unanimously to dismiss appellee.
Appellee subsequently filed an appeal with the Secretary of Education (Secretary) who by order dated December 27, 1976, Teacher Tenure Appeal No. 300, directed the Board to reinstate appellee without loss of pay, seniority or accrued benefits. The Board sought review of the Secretary's order in the Commonwealth Court and that court affirmed the order of the Secretary. Board of School Directors of Fox Chapel v. Rossetti, 36 Pa. Commw. 105, 387 A.2d 957 (1978). The Commonwealth Court held:
[s]ince the development of the law in this area has been based upon the unique position ...