The Hilliard school board on Sept. 10 accepted a letter of resignation from Sarah Gillam, the Hilliard Bradley High School teacher placed on administrative leave after she gave her language-arts class an “inappropriate” quiz with provocative and disturbing questions Sept. 5.
The resignation is effective Dec. 31, but Gillam is “out of the classroom” and not serving in any capacity with the district, according to district spokeswoman Stacie Raterman.
Gillam’s salary was $78,983 and the reason for the Dec. 31 resignation date is that she is utilizing sick leave, Raterman said. It is the only compensation Gillam will receive through the effective date of her resignation, she said.
Members of the Hilliard Education Association are eligible to take their sick leave, per the collective-bargaining agreement negotiated by the school district and teachers union, according to Mary Kennedy, president of the Hilliard Education Association.
After a 25-minute executive session Sept. 10, the school board accepted the resignation by a 5-0 vote, with no comments or discussion.
District leaders released a statement after the executive session:
“The Hilliard Board of Education has accepted a letter of resignation from Sarah Gillam tonight. The circumstances that led to the resignation are disappointing, as she has recognized. While the district’s approved curriculum and educational materials encourage students to think critically, several items on this quiz were simply inappropriate and inconsistent with established classroom resources. This never should have been given. The district works hard to earn the respect and support of students, parents and the community at large and we regret any mistrust this may have caused.”
Kennedy said the teachers union represented Gillam during discussions that led to the agreement.
“We are sad the district is losing an exceptional teacher who has done wonderful things for students,” Kennedy said.
The incident came to light when the contents of the quiz were shared on social media, Raterman said.
Raterman said when she saw a parent’s account of the quiz the evening of Sept. 5, she immediately coordinated with district administrators to determine if the post was accurate.
As the director of communications, she said, part of her job entails reacting to school-related information seen on social media, and in this instance, district leaders asked the parent for more information.
That parent was Todd Sandberg, who told The Columbus Dispatch that he thought parents needed to know about the quiz his 10th-grade son had told him about.
He said he described the incident on a Facebook page for Hilliard residents so other parents would be informed about it.
“My job was to point it out,” Sandberg told the Dispatch on Sept. 6. “It is clearly evident that it’s out there in the public. The public eye is aware of it. I knew it was going to cause a firestorm.”
Sandberg said Gillam should have resigned, as she did Sept. 10.
Gillam, 35, who was hired by the district as an English teacher in 2007 when she was named Sarah Mandish, teaches at Bradley, her personnel file shows.
The quiz she gave had 36 questions.
It asked students to respond with one of seven choices by sliding scale from “Not OK” in red on the left to “OK” in green on the right.
The website, which is called IDRlabs.com, offers numerous online tests, including those to measure narcissism, typology, feminism, level of agreement with President Donald Trump’s statements, fascism and many others.
Some of the other questions on the test dealt with less sensational topics: A boy slams the door in his father’s face because he won’t let him attend a late-night party. A person doesn’t switch shifts with a coworker even though the coworker helped her out before by taking one of her shifts.
But several questions dealt with sex or odd behavior. They included:
• “A man kills a baby rabbit with a knife” on a live TV show.
• “A brother and a sister decide that they want to sleep with each other – just once, to see what it would be like,” but use a condom and the pill.
• “Sarah’s dog has four puppies. She can only find a home for two of them, so she kills the other two with a stone to the head.”
Sandberg said that although such provocative questions might be appropriate in a college-level philosophy class, he can’t figure out why it was given to 15-year-olds in a language-arts class.
Bill Bush of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.