SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) – The principal of a Pennsylvania elementary school properly ordered a Breathalyzer test after allegedly believing that an Irish employee smelled of alcohol, a federal judge ruled.
“As teachers inhabit a highly regulated environment which is particularly sensitive to alcohol and drug abuse, I find that teachers have a reduced expectation of privacy in the use of such substances while at work,” U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo wrote.
A teacher has “a reduced expectation of privacy in her sobriety while at work,” the 20-page decision states.
Siobhan Donegan’s tensions with the East Stroudsburg Area School District came to a boil on Dec. 2, 2010, when she arrived at the elementary school, clocked in and reported to Principal Irene Livingston’s office to complete some paperwork.
Livingston testified that her secretary reported having detected the smell of alcohol on Donegan, who worked at the school as an instructional aide.
Believing that she, too, smelled alcohol on Donegan, Livingston called her supervisor, an assistant superintendent, who relayed that Donegan had left an “incoherent phone message” with an East Stroudsburg Area School District office the previous night, according to additional testimony provided to the court.
Donegan testified that she never drinks, though the principal claims that Donegan admitted to having “had a couple of drinks” the night before in concern for her mother who had to return to Ireland after her plane was apparently struck by lightning.
School police escorted Donegan to a hospital 10 minutes away, and the 9 a.m. test results were negative for alcohol.
In a federal complaint against Livingston, District Police Chief Fredrick Mill and police officer Terre Feinberg, Donegan claimed that the trio had her arrested to force her out of the school.
But Caputo found that the search was lawful, and that Donegan does not have a case for retaliation since she did not plead an association with any particular group or activity.
Since neither federal claim held water, Caputo dismissed the remaining state-law claims for unlawful arrest, slander, libel and false light invasion of privacy.