Court upholds Westmoreland educator's firing in 2002 drug incident
A former teacher's assistant should not be reinstated to her job with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, Commonwealth Court ruled on Thursday.
The court upheld the 2002 firing of Sherie L. Vrable, 55, of Washington Township, Fayette County, as a result of an in-school narcotics overdose and ordered that a state arbitrator's decision permitting her to return to a classroom be vacated.
“The award essentially would allow (Vrable) to be placed back into the classroom pending her attempts at recovery,” Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote in a majority opinion. “Simply put, an elementary classroom is no place for a recovering addict.”
The case has wended through the court system for 11 years, with numerous appeals and reversals. Commonwealth Court heard arguments in the case this year for the third time.
A man who answered the phone at Vrable's residence on Thursday said she was in an accident on Wednesday and asked a reporter to call back another day. A message left for the intermediate unit's attorney was not returned.
Vrable was dismissed after she was found unconscious in a West Newton Elementary School restroom on March 18, 2002. She was working in an emotional-support class as a 23-year education veteran with no previous blemishes on her employment record.
Court records indicate that Vrable had on her back a Fentanyl patch that had not been prescribed for her. West Newton police charged Vrable with possession of a controlled substance and she was sentenced to one year of probation.
The state arbitrator reinstated Vrable to her job and ordered her to complete drug and alcohol treatment classes and undergo periodic drug screening.
In its most recent remand of the case, the state Supreme Court directed Commonwealth Court judges to reconsider, based on a 2012 ruling in a decades-old case involving a Philadelphia Housing Authority worker.
The state high court overturned an arbitrator's award reinstating the Philadelphia employee, who was fired for sexually harassing a co-worker. The Supreme Court ruled that the reinstatement violated “dominant public policy,” according to court records, and in November denied the union's petition for allowance of appeal.
Commonwealth Court said in the Vrable opinion that reinstating “an employee who attended work while under the influence, while charged with the duty of overseeing young children, with the hope that she will overcome her addiction, defies logic and violates public policy.”
“(Vrable's) immediate reinstatement to the classroom while she attempted rehabilitation ‘eviscerated' (the intermediate unit's) ability to enforce this dominant public policy,” the court said.
In a minority opinion, Senior Judge Rochelle S. Friedman wrote that Vrable's single error does not compare to repeated incidents in the Philadelphia case, and conditions imposed by the arbitrator would uphold public policy.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Contractor eyes early finish to work on New Stanton interchange of Interstate 70
- 2 Greensburg properties left on demo list
- Jeannette trudges through blight
- Greensburg streetlights to be updated, save city $90K
- $2,000 donated for abused puppies recovering at South Huntingdon shelter
- Indiana County school employee allegedly showed 2 students an inappropriate photo
- Penn Park project moves forward
- School lunch group hopes to revise rules it calls impractical, too restrictive
- Keystone Bakery closes Greensburg store
- Western Pa. students bristle at changing menu choices
- Witnesses recount Franklin Regional stabbing