It was stupid for a substitute teacher to show students a horror film. But was it criminal?

A substitute teacher showed a graphic horror film to high school students, clearly a bad decision.

But was it a criminal act?

An Ohio jury thought so, convicting the substitute in January of four counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. Last week, an Ohio judge sentenced Sheila Kearns, 58, to 90 days in jail, setting off a national debate over whether her actions merited time behind bars.

the-abcs-of-death-posterTwo years ago, Kearns showed “The ABCs of Death” to students in a Spanish class at a Columbus high school. She testified she had not watched the movie before playing it for students.

A paean to the horror genre, the movie features 26 different stories about death, some of them quite brutal and disturbing. The Columbus Dispatch called one of the producers who told the newspaper he was stunned anyone would show the film to high school kids.

Despite the graphic violence and sex in the 129-minute film, Kearns went ahead and showed it to four more Spanish classes that day. It was her decision to continue showing the film after the first class that contributed to the guilty verdict.

The trial revealed some disturbing facts about the use of substitute teachers. And that may be worse crime here. Kearns was hired as a long-term sub for Spanish classes even though she didn’t speak Spanish. (She testified she chose the movie because she thought part of it was in Spanish.)

At sentencing, Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider noted Kearns’ glaring lack of qualifications, saying, “They put a permanent substitute in a high-school Spanish class who can’t speak Spanish at all. Here we are, with the Columbus public schools telling us what wonderful things (they) are doing.”

According to the Columbus Dispatch:

Kearns, 58, of Miller Avenue on the South Side, had told investigators that she didn’t watch the movie in advance or while showing it during five Spanish classes at the high school on April 11, 2013.

But one student testified during Kearns’ trial that the teacher did watch portions of the movie. The student, who was 17 at the time, called the movie “disturbing” and said students “were going crazy” while watching it.

Assistant County Prosecutor Kacey Chappelear had told jurors in closing arguments on Wednesday that the name of the movie was reason enough for Kearns to explore the content before showing it to juveniles. “Willful ignorance is not a defense,” she said.

In reading the commentary online, people are divided into two camps:

The first agrees with this Huffington Post commenter: “I’m sorry; this just doesn’t rise to a criminal offense to me. Fire her, and strip her of her credentials, but jailing her really serves no purpose.”

The second camp shares the sentiment of this Columbus Dispatch reader: “Anyone who doesn’t think this woman should be charged with a multiple felonies should go to YouTube and watch a few clips from this movie. I guarantee that after you watch a few of them, you will be hoping this woman goes to prison.”

What do you think?

 

 

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

This "substitute" was about the worst example of a substitute teacher you could possibly find.  She was obviously ignorant, clueless about what a teacher does and didn't give a damn about the kids.  She should NEVER be allowed to set foot in a school again.


That said, I'm not sure time in the county jail is appropriate either, other than maybe a week.  The administrators who assigned her to this class also need to be fired for negligence also.  The whole thing is disgraceful.

Cere
Cere

My other child had a business ed teacher at Lakeside teaching a class called "Entrepreneurship" although, I think the teacher was a basketball coach in reality.  He never, ever spoke to the class. He simply wrote the assignment on the board and expected students to quietly complete what was written on their own. He never 'instructed' them on anything. In fact, they had to create a logo, brochure, and business plan, all by reading about it from a book. 


Unless you are in the Advanced or AP classes, you are not getting a good education whatsoever.

Cere
Cere

FWIW, my child had a (very popular) long-term sub in Spanish at Lakeside HS. He also did not speak Spanish. My child failed the class and had to retake it online over the summer. At least the computer spoke Spanish!

And, there were many, many days when my child said they watched movies in various classes. Luckily these were not slasher movies - more often it was 'Sponge Bob Square Pants'.

Antagonist
Antagonist

Where were the teacher's lesson plans?


Cere
Cere

@Antagonist That was a question my husband always asked. His mother was a second grade teacher for decades and always had to show lesson plans to her principal.  We never saw a lesson plan from these teachers, who give all teachers a bad rap.  We should weed them out, and demanding lesson plans is a good place to start evaluating. Observing unannounced is another. That never happened that we were aware of either. Basic. Simple. Stuff. That we all expect is happening - but it's often not.

styymy
styymy

This actually went to trial???? Hahahahahahahahahahahna

RealLurker
RealLurker

I think that her prosecution was probably the result of overreaction to a mob mentality from parents at the school.  There aren't many video rental stores around anymore, but 10 years ago, the same high school kids could have gone to a rental store and rented movies like this themselves.  She acted stupidly.  She should not be teaching.  However, we should not have laws against stupidity.  We should have laws against harming other people.


The Ohio statue against "disseminating matter harmful to juveniles" is extremely vague.  It does not have a definition for that "harmful" is.  Reading the entire statute, it seems to be referring to pornographic material, but never states that.  Under that statute, it would be possible to make a claim that showing a video explaining how to throw a curve ball to a juvenile is "harmful" because attempting a curve ball before a certain maturity can inure a young persons arm.  I read the parent's guide on IMDB for this movie.  It sounds very distasteful, but not pornographic.  The Ohio statute leaves it open to prosecutors to decide what is "harmful" enough to subject someone to prosecution.  Laws should be precise so that everyone can know what they can and cannot do legally.

1Robert
1Robert

The story as told by some students was that when a principle came in she shut off the video.  She knew it was wrong and tried to hide it.  As for her hiring that was done by a liberal school district so we can't question that.

Astropig
Astropig

Buckets of stupid here:


Didn't speak spanish? Long term sub in a spanish class? 

Didn't know what was in a movie after showing it 5 times?


This film is not appropriate for any school age student.I don't blame the judge here for giving her some easy time (local jail is no field of buttercups,but its not like big boy prison either).I personally thought that the sentence was harsh and probation with the stipulation that she never substitute again would have sufficed,but nothing surprises me coming from the bench.Another alternative would be to suspend the sentence with the same stipulation.



Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I would hold administrators responsible for so poorly overseeing the sub.

TicTacs
TicTacs

The judge is full of crap.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

Graphic violence and sex to (hope you're sitting down for this) high school students!!!  Oh the humanity!!!


These students are driving cars, voting and actually having sex.  Sorry, but I don't see the big deal.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@RichardKPE Did you watch the film or view the clips? Curious if you don't care that the school has no policies on this, nor do they have policies preventing a non-Spanish speaking teacher teaching in a Spanish classroom as a long-term sub? 

redweather
redweather

The school district and/or the person who placed a non-Spanish speaking permanent sub in this class have some explaining to do. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

This is a troubling case.   Seems to me that the teacher not only failed to screen the film before showing it, but the school district should be exposed to liability for "putting a permanent substitute in a high school Spanish class who can't speak Spanish at all."   The teacher should have been terminated, but I fail to see the legal basis for imprisonment.


I'd be more concerned that the school district wasn't disciplined for putting an unqualified teacher into a classroom and not having any policies or processes for bringing in third party content to a classroom.

Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

" At sentencing, Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider noted Kearns’ glaring lack of qualifications, saying, “They put a permanent substitute in a high-school Spanish class who can’t speak Spanish at all."

My question is: What did they do in class on other days? Geeeezzzzzzz....

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

The money quote?

"Willful ignorance is not a defense."

Will she have to register as a sex offender, seein's how the film was sexually explicit?

I have no sympathy for her plight. She should have known better.