| News

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

School employee with criminal record to keep his job

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

From Staff and Wire Reports
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 6:18 p.m.

An Allegheny Intermediate Unit employee convicted of voluntary manslaughter nearly 30 years ago will remain on the job after a state appeals court sided with him over the group's attempt to fire him.

Commonwealth Court ruled on due process grounds in favor of Arthur Johnson of the North Side, who works as a “fatherhood facilitator” for the AIU.

The AIU moved to terminate Johnson this year under a revised state law that imposes a lifetime ban on employment in school districts for people with certain criminal convictions to have direct contact with children.

The judges said the AIU failed to show that firing Johnson served a legitimate governmental purpose.

The ban, Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote for the seven-judge panel, “has no temporal proximity to Johnson's present ability to perform the duties of his position, and it does not bear a real and substantial relationship to the commonwealth's interest in protecting children, it is unreasonable, unduly oppressive and patently beyond the necessities of the offense.”

An Allegheny County judge ruled in favor of Johnson, and the state Department of Education appealed. A state agency spokesman declined comment, saying the decision was under review.

Mary Jo Miller, staff attorney for the Pennsylvania State Education Association who represented Johnson, welcomed the ruling and said the AIU knew of Johnson's conviction when it hired him as a van driver in 2001 and that he has been a model employee.

“There's just something not right about telling someone he's done everything he's supposed to do after a terrible and tragic mistake ... but now we've changed our minds, and now we're going to take your job away,” Miller said. “And you are forever banned from earning a living in this area.”

A five-year ban on school employment for those with homicide convictions became a lifetime ban under a 2011 state law, Pellegrini wrote. The Department of Education told school administrators they could face penalties if they did not act against employees with criminal records that disqualify them from employment.

The Education Department had argued that the ban was justified on the grounds of student safety.

Miller said other similar cases are winding their way through the court system.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
  2. Rossi: Time for Pirates to take next step
  3. Trump falls to Democrats in latest poll of swing states
  4. Steelers notebook: Tomlin not worried about Jones’ lack of sacks
  5. New Florence assistant fire chief charged with having sex with juvenile
  6. Penguins rally in wake of Dupuis injury
  7. Wolf still seeking to raise income tax, impose tax on shale-gas drilling
  8. Same cast, improved results for Pitt defense
  9. Fleury’s demeanor helps keep Penguins loose, him playing his best
  10. Cubs’ Arrieta, Pirates’ Cole leave batters with little margin for error
  11. How the Pirates put together another postseason contender