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MCKEESPORT AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD DIRECTORS v. TRESSA COLLINS (12/23/80)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 23, 1980.

MCKEESPORT AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS, APPELLANT
v.
TRESSA COLLINS, A MINOR, BY HER MOTHER, ELAINE COLLINS, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Tressa Collins, a minor, by her mother, Elaine Collins v. McKeesport Area School District Board of Directors, S.A. No. 112 of 1979.

COUNSEL

Robert P. Costello, with him Gary J. Gushard, for appellant.

Richard E. Gordon, with him David J. Heinlein, for appellee.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 549]

The McKeesport Area School District Board of Directors (Board) has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County modifying the duration of Tressa Collins' expulsion from the McKeesport Area Senior High School. We affirm.

On November 22, 1978, Tressa Collins having just been suspended for three days from the McKeesport Area Senior High School for not attending classes entered the McKeesport Junior High School without authorization. While there, Ms. Collins became involved with a teacher who found her writing on a washroom wall and this culminated in her assaulting the teacher. The Board ordered Ms. Collins expelled from school for the remainder of the 1978-79 school year. Ms. Collins appealed the Board's action to the court below, which heard the appeal de novo. At the hearing the court modified the Board's action to provide that Ms. Collins be suspended until March 1, 1979 and thereafter be reinstated for the balance of the 1978-79 school year.

The Board contends that the lower court's modification of the Board's decision was an abuse of its discretion.*fn1 No record was made of the School Board's proceedings. If a full and complete record of

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 550]

    these proceedings had been made, the court on appeal would have been required simply to affirm the Board's order unless it found the adjudication to be in violation of Ms. Collins' constitutional rights, that the Board's proceedings violated statutory requirements or a necessary finding was not supported by substantial evidence. Section 754(b) of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 754(b). See Appeal of Marple Newtown School District, 27 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 588, 367 A.2d 399 (1976). Since here there was no record of the Board's proceedings, the court was empowered to, and did hold a hearing de novo. Section 754(a) of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 754(a). The result is, of course, that discretion with respect to the penalty was then vested in the court and that discretion was as broad as the Board's.

The hearing judge's discretion was not arbitrarily exercised. He noted that Ms. Collins did not have a history of troublemaking, that she had passed her courses and wanted to return to school; and that she had an occupational goal which might be impeded by losing the whole year. While we might have decided otherwise, we cannot say that the court abused a sound discretion in modifying the Board's order.*fn2

Order affirmed.

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 551]

Order

And Now, this 23rd day of December, 1980, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, No. SA-112, 1979, is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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