Firing School Employees for Jeopardizing the Safety of School Children Cases

In Will v. Frontier Central School District Board of Education, 97 NY2d 690, 765 N.E.2d 293, 739 N.Y.S.2d 90 (2002), the Court of Appeals held that the penalty of dismissal was not shocking to the "judicial conscience" where a school employee engaged in alcohol-related conduct that jeopardized public safety and the safety of the school children in her charge. In Duncan v. Klein, 38 AD3d 380, 832 N.Y.S.2d 188 (1st Dept 2007), the Appellate Division First Department found that the penalty of permanently revoking a school bus escort's certification did not "shock our conscience," where the escort was found to have actively hit a student with an umbrella, rather than merely defending herself. In Thibodeau v. Northeastern Clinton Central School Board of Education, 39 AD3d 940, 833 N.Y.S.2d 294 (3rd Dept 2007), the court upheld the termination of a school bus driver who snapped a child's bra strap while she was on the bus, grabbed the child in a head lock and ruffled her hair, and retaliated against her for reporting such conduct. In Bottari v. Saratoga Springs City School District, 3 AD3d 832, 771 N.Y.S.2d 261 (3rd Dept 2004), the court held that a school bus driver's termination was not shocking or disproportionate, where the driver displayed poor judgment and lack of remorse, used threatening and obscene language against another bus driver who filed a complaint against her, the school district had a strict policy against threats of violence, and there were safety issues including reports of erratic driving. In Massaria v. Betschen, 290 AD2d 602, 734 N.Y.S.2d 740 (3rd Dept 2002), the court upheld the dismissal of a school bus driver who on two occasions failed to drop a student off at her assigned bus stop, and on one or more occasions drove the bus into the middle of the road as he approached the bus stop with waiting children, creating a safety risk; the driver also failed to modify his behavior after direct warnings by his supervisor. In Collins v. Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District, 274 AD2d 732, 710 N.Y.S.2d 728 (3rd Dept 2000), the court held that penalty of termination was not disproportionate, where the bus driver demonstrated a "complete lack of judgment" and violated the school policy prohibiting possession and consumption of alcohol on school premises, by bringing and consuming beer on school property, attending a bus driver safety workshop after consuming and while under the influence of alcohol, and after the workshop, driving out of the parking lot at a high rate of speed, spinning her tires. In Malloch v. Ballston Spa Central School District, 249 AD2d 797, 671 N.Y.S.2d 845 (3rd Dept), lv app den 92 NY2d 810, 702 N.E.2d 840, 680 N.Y.S.2d 55 (1998), the court upheld the termination of a school bus driver who had a record of numerous traffic infractions and incidents, and was found guilty of six separately charged safety violations based on observations of his driving on six separate occasions within a short period of time. In Heslop v. Board of Education, Newfield Central School District, 191 AD2d 875, 594 N.Y.S.2d 871 (3rd Dept 1993), the court found that the school bus driver's termination was not disproportionate to the offense, where the driver was accused of two separate and similar incidents of overreaction and loss of control involving the use of physical force against two students; the driver's performance evaluations disclosed that he had difficulty controlling his temper when disciplinary problems arose. In that case, the two children testified at the hearing. In one incident involving a hearing impaired child who was creating a disturbance on the bus, the driver "yelled" at the child and pushed his head against the bus window with such forced that he began to cry. In the other incident involving a child in kindergarten, the bus driver told the child to stop eating a muffin and when she refused to do so, he "smacked" her on the cheek and threw the muffin out the window.