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UPDATED: Ohio teacher convicted of felony for showing The ABCs Of Death in class

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Substitute teachers showing movies during class so they don’t have to actually teach anything is a tradition nearly as old as “silent reading time.” But a court case currently unfolding in Columbus, Ohio asks if there is a point where a substitute stops being a glorified babysitter and starts becoming criminally negligent.

58-year-old Sheila Kearns has been charged with five felony counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles in relation to screening the horror anthology film The ABCs Of Death for five high school Spanish classes. Kearns’ defense attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, argues that she didn’t know what The ABCs Of Death was about before she screened it, thought the movie was in Spanish (which it is, partially), and wouldn’t have showed it if she knew it contained graphic content. She also says that she had her back turned to the screen and thus didn’t see scenes like the segment where a series of men are impaled on a spike after losing a masturbation contest, which does raise the question of what exactly Kearns was doing for five consecutive class periods to miss something like that.

Kearns was apparently busted after a student told another teacher about what they had seen in Spanish class. That led to a visit from the school’s assistant principal; when Kearns saw the administrator enter the room, she reportedly tried to fast-forward the movie but paused on a moment featuring bare breasts, which the kids must have thought was hilarious. Student Kayleigh Edwards testified yesterday that the movie was so “disturbing” it led her to stop paying attention and work on her homework instead, looking up occasionally to see what her classmates “were going crazy about.”


Kearns’ conviction rests on whether a judge deems The ABCs Of Death “obscene” under Ohio law, as well as if Kearns “knowingly” showed the film. Oglesby has said that no one “who is not pleading insanity” would show The ABCs of Death to high school students and that “There’s no way you would show that movie with knowledge of its content,” both of which would make great pull quotes for the special edition Blu-ray.

Should Kearns be acquitted and allowed to keep her job, we have a few suggestions for viewing material for other high school subjects:

Biology: The Human Centipede

Anthropology: Cannibal Holocaust

European History: Salò, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom

French: Martyrs

German: Nekromantik

Phys Ed: Debbie Does Dallas

Current Events: Ebola Syndrome

Women’s Studies: I Spit On Your Grave

UPDATE: According to The Columbus Dispatch, Kearns was just convicted on four of five felony counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. The jury’s rationale was reportedly that while Kearns could have unwittingly shown the movie to the first class of students, she should have figured out that it was inappropriate by the second. Kearns’ sentencing is set for March 4.

[story via @Simon_Barrett]