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Published in Print: October 21, 1998, as Court Lets Stand Firing Of Teacher Charged With Drunken Driving

Court Lets Stand Firing Of Teacher Charged With Drunken Driving

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The U.S. Supreme Court last week turned away an appeal from a Tennessee teacher who was fired for refusing to undergo a psychiatric evaluation following an accident for which she was charged with drunken driving.

Penny Moore, a former 2nd grade teacher in the 6,500-student Johnson City, Tenn., school district, was dismissed in 1994 after she refused to provide administrators with her medical records or undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she was fit to return to teaching following the multicar accident. Ms. Moore was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

She sued the school district in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She also alleged that the district violated her rights to due process of law because the superintendent served as both a witness and the presiding officer at her dismissal hearing.

She also argued that she was fit to return to the classroom, and thus was "otherwise qualified" to hold her job under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act despite having psychiatric disabilities.

Drug Problems

The school district argued in court papers in Moore v. Johnson City Board of Education (Case No. 98-154) that Ms. Moore had an alcohol- and drug-abuse problem stemming from personal problems and that she was not fit to return to the classroom.

She was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct in May 1994, after her dismissal, and she admitted to a therapist that she had used opium and cocaine beginning in 1993, according to court papers.

Both the federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, ruled for the school system.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Ms. Moore's lawyers argued that she was being discriminated against because the district applied "the very sorts of stereotypes to psychiatric disabilities which the Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to prevent."

The high court on Oct. 13 rejected the appeal without comment.

Vol. 18, Issue 8, Pages 1,24

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