Olentangy Valley News

Board fires Cheshire teacher whose spouse grew pot

Police found marijuana in home of veteran district teacher 11/2 years ago

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Olentangy school board voted last week to fire a teacher because her husband grew and used marijuana in the home they shared.

The board unanimously agreed Thursday, Jan. 23, to finalize the termination of Suzanne Van Schaik, a Cheshire Elementary School teacher and 25-year employee of the district.

The decision followed the board's initiation of the termination process in late October 2012 and a referee's Dec. 27, 2013, ruling that affirmed the termination.

According to a finding of fact released by the district, Van Schaik's husband, Richard Van Schaik, began growing marijuana in the basement of the family home in Galena in 2010. Police discovered 12 marijuana plants in the woods outside the family's home and between 12 and 24 plants inside the home Aug. 20, 2012, according to the district.

On Aug. 21, 2012, Suzanne Van Schaik met with Cheshire Elementary School Principal Justin Syroka and told him, "I knew this was going to happen. ... What am I going to do? I'm screwed. This is my career," according to the finding of fact.

District officials said Suzanne Van Schaik, who has been on unpaid administrative leave since Oct. 23, 2012, was trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of marijuana use.

In his Dec. 27 decision, referee Norman J. Ogilvie Jr. wrote that the evidence in the case pointed to the conclusion that Suzanne Van Schaik knew about her husband's activities.

"Due to her condonation of marijuana use and/or cultivation, Suzanne is not a proper role model for students," he wrote. "Suzanne has lost her credibility to enforce/teach the district's anti-drug policies, or otherwise discipline students."

Ogilvie wrote that, even if Suzanne Van Schaik did not know about her husband's marijuana-growing operation, the incident would affect her ability to continue working in the district.

"If she didn't know, how could she implement the district policies of a drug-free school if she was so unobservant?" he wrote. "How could she be viewed as a role model with the specter of the intense publicity of the incident at her home and the sense of impropriety that is brought on her?"

According to the district's finding of fact, the incident resulted in negative publicity for the school and the district in local media.

Although the board voted to finalize Suzanne Van Schaik's termination, the process might continue in the court system.

"Suzanne still has the right to appeal ... to the court of common pleas," said Gale Marsh, the district's executive director of human resources.

Marsh said Suzanne Van Schaik can file an appeal up to one month after the termination was finalized.

Superintendent Wade Lucas said district officials have been working to finalize the termination process as quickly as possible.

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