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EVERETT AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. BRENDA AULT (10/20/88)

decided: October 20, 1988.

EVERETT AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT
v.
BRENDA AULT, APPELLEE. EVERETT AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT V. WILLIAM BAKER, APPELLEE



Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Bedford County in the cases of William Baker v. Everett Area School District, No. 617-1987; and Brenda Ault v. Everett Area School District, No. 618-1987.

COUNSEL

Vincent Candiello, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellant.

William K. Eckel, for appellees.

Judges Colins and McGinley, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins. Judge MacPhail did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Colins

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 515]

The Everett Area School District (appellant) appeals a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Bedford County which sustained the consolidated appeals of Brenda Ault and William Baker (appellees) and vacated a fifteen-day suspension imposed by appellant for immoral conduct. We affirm.

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 516]

The incident that gave rise to this litigation occurred on June 5, 1987, the last day of classes for the 1986-87 school year. On this day, during the third period, appellee Ault engaged in a water fight with her tenth grade class. While it was forbidden by the appellant to engage in water fights, this type of "horseplay" was traditional on the last day of classes. While these water fights were entered into in a spirit of youthful joviality, rather than malice, it must be noted that the school authorities had given explicit warnings that no teachers or students were to engage in any such conduct and that a violation of this policy would result in severe disciplinary actions.

At the conclusion of the skirmish between appellee Ault and her students, the group proceeded to appellee Baker's classroom and commenced a sneak attack upon appellee Baker. During this attack, appellee Baker reached for the nearest bottle of liquid, which turned out to be a cleansing solution, and splashed three students with this cleanser. This, again, was undertaken in a spirit of horseplay, rather than assaultive conduct.

Unfortunately, the cleaning fluid in question was mildly caustic and the three students suffered minor irritations of the eyes and skin which required them to be sent to the school nurse. After receiving initial treatment from the school nurse, the three students were transported to a local hospital where they received further medical attention and were issued prescriptions for eye drops.

The appellant approved a motion charging Baker with intemperance, immorality, and cruelty and Ault with intemperance and immorality. The appellees were informed of the charges against them in a July 3, 1987, letter. Appellant sought to terminate appellee Baker and suspend appellee Ault for ninety (90) days. After a hearing before the School Board, the appellees were found guilty of immorality and suspended for fifteen

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 517]

(15) days without pay. An appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Bedford County resulted in a reversal of the suspensions and a remand to the appellant with the suggestion that ...


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