LIMA — In a rare move, Lima North Middle School teacher Tonya Jacobs has asked for a hearing on the school board’s plan to fire her over a science experiment that injured 13 pupils.
The school board earlier this month approved Superintendent Jill Ackerman’s recommendation to terminate Jacobs. She had 10 days to ask for a hearing with a referee.
Ackerman doesn’t remember an employee ever requesting such a hearing. She believes the school board has grounds for termination, saying the district’s investigation was thorough enough to substantiate it.
“I would never make a recommendation for that if I did not feel that it was warranted,” she said.
Jacobs could not be reached for comment Monday. She is being represented by a Toledo-based attorney with the Ohio Education Association. She also could not be reached for comment.
Ackerman said the district has sent a letter to the state superintendent, who will submit three names for both sides to decide on a referee. The district has not heard back from the state yet.
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 Titanic sunk in the north Atlantic a century ago. The experiment injured 13 pupils, including one who was taken by helicopter to Toledo for emergency treatment.
The experiment, which is commonly conducted in schools, 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. The salt had been removed from its original container, which is against school policy when conducting such experiments.
The resolution for termination also revealed that Jacobs did not allow pupils to see the school nurse and did not respond truthfully to inquiries made by the district.
Ackerman expects the hearing to happen within the next 30 days. Either side could ask for an extension.