May a school entity terminate an educator if she does not “command respect and good will" of the school community? PIL Class Case Study

Horosko v. Mt. Pleasant Township SD (1939)

Background: Ms. Horosko signed a written contract to serve as a school teacher within the Mt. Pleasant Township School District (District) in 1935. She held a three year, temporary teaching certificate.  She was an instructor at the District's lower grade school in the country. Eighteen pupils were grouped into eight grades in this building. 

In April, 1937 the PA General Assembly passed the Teachers Tenure Act.  The effect of this statute was to restrict the ability of school districts to dismiss educators at will.

 A dispute had existed for years between the District and Ms. Horosko concerning a restaurant operated by Ms. Horosko's husband. "In this restaurant beer was sold and a pin-ball and slot machine were maintained and dice were played. The restaurant was across the road and about one hundred and twenty five feet from the school." The restaurant was a lunch room and beer garden in which Ms. Horosko worked as a waitress and bartender after school hours and during the summer vacation.

Ms. Horosko would tutor several of her students within the restaurant. At these times she drank beer, served beer to the patrons, "shook dice with customers for drinks" and showed customers how to play the pin ball machine. 

In addition, Ms. Horosko scored a 43% on a competentcy test  administered by A. H. Howell, Superintendent of the District. 

The District sought to terminate her contract "upon grounds of incompetency, intemperance and in acting as waitress in the Beer Garden of [her] husband, wilful and persistent negligence in leaving the school grounds during school hours." Following a hearing before the School Board, the District discharged Ms. Horosko. 

Ms. Horosko appealed the District's action to the Wayne County Common Pleas Court, where a trial was held producing the factual record and quotes reported here. The Common Pleas Court affirmed the District's discharge of Ms. Horosko.

Ms. Horosko then appealed the Common Pleas Court decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The Superior Court wrote: 

The valid causes for which a teacher may be dismissed are set forth in the Act of April 6, 1937, P.L. 213, which is "intended to provide the greatest measure of protection possible against dismissal of employees": Teachers' Tenure Act Cases, supra, 329 Pa. 213, at page 234, 197 A. 344, at page 357. The continuation of appellant as a teacher may not be for the best interests of the children of her school or of the school system in that township, but the heretofore discretionary power of school boards to oust employees without cause has been taken away. See Teachers' Tenure Act Cases, supra, page 222. In Millar's Appeal, 30 Pa. D. C. 1, at page 5, Judge SHEELY aptly said: "The wisdom of the act is solely a question for the legislature, and if the board fails to sustain the charges brought against the teacher by evidence which is legally competent and relevant it is the duty of the court to reverse the action of the board even though the result may be that the board is forced to retain a teacher whom they do not desire and who has lost the confidence not only of the board but of the community and the pupils.
 Horosko v. Sch. Dist. of Mount Pleasant Twp. 135 Pa. Super. 102, 4 A2d 601 (1939). 

The PA Superior Court reversed the Common Pleas Court and ordered Ms. Horosko reinstated by the District.   *My PIL Classes are studying this case.  This may or may not be the final disposition of this case.  2-26-24

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