LIMA — Lima North Middle School teacher Tonya Jacobs denied pupils access to the school nurse after last month’s botched science experiment and one pupil needed to be taken by helicopter to Toledo for emergency treatment.
The Lima school board met in special session Wednesday to approve Superintendent Jill Ackerman’s recommendation to terminate Jacobs. She has 10 days to to ask for a hearing with the board or an arbitrator.
“If we don’t hear anything from her we will proceed with the termination,” Ackerman said.
The board will officially approve the termination at its June 27 regular meeting. Jacobs could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Jacobs, who has been with the district since 2008, was conducting an experiment for her class May 20 to show how cold the water was when the RMS Titanic sunk in the north Atlantic a century ago.
The experiment injured 13 pupils. The board resolution said one had to go to Toledo for treatment and that Jacobs “failed to adequately respond to the injuries she had caused to be inflicted on the students by denying the students access to the school nurse.” The resolution also said Jacobs did not respond truthfully to inquiries made by the district.
The experiment involves mixing salt and ice water in a bucket with a cup of unsalted water in the middle for children to stick a hand into. Ackerman said the cup of unsalted water was left out.
Jacobs told school officials that she altered the experiment but did not elaborate on how, Ackerman said. The salt had been removed from its original container and was in a Ziploc bag. The district had to send it away to be tested to confirm what it was.
“There are processes when you have a chemical in your classroom, and a lot of the processes she was just negligent in,” Ackerman said. “We go through safety trainings; we sign off that we understand this is what we have to do. She did not follow those procedures and protocols, which makes her negligent.”
Thirteen pupils suffered injuries, including what resembled chemical burns. Lima schools recommended all 13 seek medical attention. The incident was reported to Allen County Children Services, and a police report was filed.
Jacobs was put on paid administrative leave after the incident. Ackerman said a few days later that she would recommend termination.
The experiment is one commonly used in schools. Participation was voluntary and part of a lesson on the Titanic. The pupils were reading the book about the luxury ship that sank. The water temperature when the Titanic sunk was 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
This was not the first time Jacobs has been in trouble this school year. A written disciplinary action was put in her file April 16 after she sat on a child’s lap to “redirect her in the classroom.” She also made the comment “don’t make me knock the black off you.”
Ackerman said Jacobs admitted to both and that it was the first time she had been reprimanded. Ackerman said her decision to recommend termination has nothing to do with the previous issue.
“This is based on the fact that 13 kids were injured because of negligence,” she said.