Olentangy board fires teacher over drugs

By Gary Budzak

January 26, 2014

The Olentangy Local School District Board of Education has unanimously agreed to fire a long-time teacher because her husband grew and smoked marijuana in their home.

The board initiated proceedings against Cheshire Elementary School teacher Suzanne Van Schaik in 2012, and received a referee’s recommendation on Dec. 27, 2013.

According to the findings of fact, husband Richard Van Schaik began growing and smoking marijuana in the basement of their Galena home in 2010. On Aug. 20, 2012, just prior to the start of the school year, one of the Van Schaik children reported the operation to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. Police discovered marijuana plants in the basement and in the woods behind the family home.

The referee’s report states that “Richard went to the basement to smoke marijuana almost every night for 10 or 15 minutes.” In addition, over a two-year period, he “attempted to grow marijuana in five different areas of the basement.” It further stated that Suzanne said he smoked marijuana for medical purposes.

The district’s policies state that the board believes a “quality education is not possible in an environment affected by drugs” and the “misuse of drugs is a serious problem with legal, physical and social implications for the whole school community.”

Van Schaik, a public educator for 25 years, was placed on unpaid administrative leave on Oct. 23, 2012, after she explained her involvement. She demanded a hearing before a referee.

Norman J. Ogilvie Jr. was appointed to referee the hearing, which took place Sept. 16-17, 2013. The board’s termination of Van Schaik “was reasonable, appropriate, and for good and just cause,” was Ogilvie’s recommendation.

“Although the preponderance of evidence indicates that she did know what her husband was doing, if she didn’t know, how could she implement the District policies of a drug-free school if she was so unobservant?” Ogilvie 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?”

The board voted on the termination without comment as part of four board action items at the Jan. 23 meeting.