decided: June 8, 1982.
BETHEL PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT, PETITIONER
BETTE T. KRALL, RESPONDENT
Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Bette T. Krall v. Bethel Park School District, Teacher Tenure Appeal No. 9-79.
John R. Johnson, with him A. Bruce Bowden, Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald, Kyle & Buerger, for petitioner.
Joseph M. Ludwig, Ludwig & Achman, for respondent.
Judges Rogers, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 144]
The Bethel Park School District here appeals an order of the Secretary of Education sustaining the appeal of Bette T. Krall, a professional employee, who was dismissed by the district for conduct considered immoral under Section 1122 of the Public School Code.*fn1
The facts of the incident which resulted in Mrs. Krall's dismissal are not in dispute. Mrs. Krall had been a tenured professional employee of the district since 1969, and was also an elected director of another school district in which she resides. In that latter capacity, Mrs. Krall wished to attend a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 14 and 15, 1979. Having previously requested and been refused paid personal time off to attend conferences unrelated to her work in Bethel Park, Mrs. Krall did not request personal time off to attend this conference; instead, she simply informed her principal's secretary that she would be unavailable to perform her duties on the subject dates.
After attending the conference and returning to work, Mrs. Krall submitted a report of excused absence
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 145]
for February 14 and 15, 1979, listing illness as the reason for her absence. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Krall submitted a statement from her physician indicating that she was ill on the subject dates. This statement was based on misrepresented information received from Mrs. Krall's husband without the benefit of an actual physical examination. Upon learning of the misrepresentation, Mrs. Krall's physician contacted the school district to retract his report.
Subsequently, following a hearing, the board dismissed Mrs. Krall, determining that her conduct amounted to immorality under the Code. Mrs. Krall appealed her dismissal to the Secretary of Education, and a hearing was held on October 3, 1979. Two years later, on November 30, 1981, the Secretary of Education sustained Mrs. Krall's appeal, concluding that she did not act in an immoral manner. This appeal by the board ensued.*fn2
Where, as here, the Secretary did not take additional testimony,*fn3 his scope of review is limited to a determination of (1) whether there was substantial evidence to support the board's action and (2) whether, as a matter of law, the public employee's conduct
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 146]
constituted a violation of the school code. Strinich v. Clairton School District, 494 Pa. 297, 431 A.2d 267 (1981); Langley v. Uniontown Area School District, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 69, 72, 367 A.2d 736, 737, 738 (1977).*fn4 Thus, the issue here is whether Mrs. Krall's conduct constituted immorality as a matter of law. See Landi v. West Chester Area School District, 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 586, 590, 353 A.2d 895, 897 (1976).*fn5
Our Supreme Court, in Horosko v. Mt. Pleasant Township School District, 335 Pa. 369, 372, 6 A.2d 866, 868, cert. denied, 308 U.S. 553, 60 S. Court 101, 84 L.Ed. 465 (1939), defined "immorality" in Section 1122 of the Code as:
A course of conduct as offends the morals of the community and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals of teachers is supposed to foster and elevate.
Moreover, questions of morality are not limited to sexual conduct, but may include lying. See Appeal of Flannery, 406 Pa. 515, 178 A.2d 751 (1962).
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 147]
The determination of community standards is made by the school board, and thus a finding of the board that a professional employee was guilty of offending the moral standards of the community by his actions will not be disturbed on appeal when supported by substantial evidence. Penn-Delco School District v. Page 147} Urso, 33 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 501, 382 A.2d 162 (1978). Such substantial evidence necessary to justify dismissal is determined by whether a reasonable person acting reasonably might have reached the same decision as the board. Id.
Although Mrs. Krall's unexcused absences might also have been considered in the context of "persistent willful misconduct,"*fn6 at least her misrepresentations are properly the subject of an immorality charge. Given our limited scope of review, we cannot say that a reasonable person might not have reached the same decision as the board.
Accordingly, we reverse.
Now, June 8, 1982, the order of the Secretary of Education, dated November 30, 1981, No. 9-79, is hereby vacated, and the decision of the Bethel Park School District, Allegheny County, terminating the contract of Bette T. Krall is hereby reinstated.
Reversed. Termination decision reinstated.