An Ohio jury is being asked to decide whether a substitute high school teacher broke the law when she showed a movie containing sex scenes and violence to five Spanish classes at East High School in Columbus.
The Columbus Dispatch reports the jury heard opening arguments Monday in the trial of 58-year-old Sheila Kearns. She stands charged with five counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Assistant Prosecutor Kacey Chappelear told the jury, comprised of 10 men and two women, that Kearns showed the film “The ABCs of Death” on April 11, 2013, during five periods of a Spanish class for which she had been the substitute teacher.
Chappelear said when an assistant principal entered the classroom after hearing of a student’s complaint, Kearns tried to fast-forward through a scene but inadvertently paused the film “with bare female breasts on the screen.”
Yahoo Movies, in an article about the pending trial, describes the “ABCs of Death” as a 2012 independent, “ambitious anthology” movie that compiles the work of 26 directors, who each direct a short film about a way to die that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. For example, in the film, “A” is for “apocalypse” and “B” is for “bigfoot.”
Chappelear told jurors the movie contains scenes inappropriate for the students — who ranged in age from 14 to 18 years old — including scenes depicting “full frontal nudity, masturbation, ejaculate, feces and vomit.”
Kearns’ attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, said his client had not reviewed the movie, which she believed was in Spanish, and had her back to the screen while it ran in the classroom.
“It was a mistake that the state wants to turn into a crime,” he said.
After the assistant principal confiscated the movie, a school resource officer reportedly contacted police.
Oglesby criticized the school for hiring Kearns, who does not speak Spanish, as a long-term substitute. He said his client had no choice but to show films to keep students occupied in what he called “an act of glorified babysitting,”
The jury will be asked to consider whether the movie appeals “to the prurient or scatological interest ... rather than primarily for a genuine, scientific, educational, sociological, moral or artistic purpose.”
If convicted, Kearns could face one year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the five charges.