UnNews:Ohio teacher expelled for sleeping in class

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11 November 2010

81-year-old teacher Carol Smith photographed leading poetry class

SANDUSKY, Ohio -- In a classic case of man-bites-dog irony, a northwestern Ohio school board fired a long-time poetry teacher for sleeping in class, and for talking in her sleep.

Carol Smith, 81, was fired by the Perkins District school board, which said her actions threatened the safety of her middle- and high-school students.

The students often complained to both parents and Principal Stephen Finn that Smith always fell asleep when they were talking. The students said Finn suggested they probably had just written boring poetry. They also accused Smith of talking in her sleep. Smith said that both drowsiness and sleep-talking are technically disabilities, for which the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the employer provide "reasonable accommodation"--such as teaching poetry, as it doesn't have to make sense.

School board president Steve Schuster said Wednesday's vote to terminate the 64-year veteran teacher followed lengthy deliberations. The board relied on a referee, who cautiously reported that Smith's behavior was "totally unprofessional, inappropriate, unsafe, outrageous, flagrant and persistent." However, a spokesman for the Ohio Education Association, solicited for a spicy counterpoint to give this reporter a veneer of objectivity, insisted that all those attributes are specifically protected by the current labor contract.

Students told the referee that the class was "unruly" when Smith was asleep, allowing class bullies to stomp helpless wimps, and that they couldn’t learn or ask questions unless she was awake, which was almost never.

Smith said she had hoped to "hang on" for another year to goose her pension by $900 per month, at which point Schuster conceded that an Assistant Principal position was vacant, for which Smith seemed to meet the prerequisites.