Sheila Kearns
YouTube screenshot

In an Ohio judge’s eyes, there were two offenses committed in a case involving a Columbus high school classroom. First, that a substitute teacher who couldn’t speak Spanish was brought in to be a long-term fill-in for a Spanish class. Second, that the teacher, Sheila Kearns, 48, showed the class an inappropriate film depicting 26 different ways in which one could die. The video got Kearns sentenced to 90 days in jail for “disseminating harmful material to juveniles,” the Columbus Dispatch reports.

“This is what happens when you put a teacher in a class that she cannot teach,” Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider said before sentencing Kearns.

“They put a permanent substitute in a high school Spanish class who can’t speak Spanish at all,” Schneider continued, lambasting Columbus City Schools. 

Kearns argued that she had never seen The ABCs of Death—a film that demonstrates 26 ways to die based on each letter of the alphabet. Kearns said that she had had her back turned to the film while it played for five of her Spanish classes throughout the day.

The judge, however, didn’t buy that. “There’s no way you’ll persuade me that’s what happened,” Schneider told Kearns during the sentencing hearing.


With regard to why Kearns was hired at all, given that she doesn’t speak Spanish, the Columbus school district said that foreign-language substitute teachers are hard to come by and that the school at the time was unable to find any substitute teachers who could teach Spanish.

Kearns plans to appeal her conviction.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.