The Akron Public Schools Board of Education has given Melissa Cairns, a middle school math teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center, until Jan. 26 to respond to allegations that she had posted a photo of her students’ duct-taped mouths on her personal Facebook page.
The board voted on Jan. 14 to pursue the termination of Cairns, who received a notice to that effect on Jan. 16. Pending Cairns’ request for a hearing, the board is expected to vote on Cairns’ termination at its next meeting on Jan. 28.
According to APS spokeswoman Sarah Hollander, Cairns has been on paid leave since Oct. 19.
The teachers’ union said it intends to request a referee in the matter.
The district hired Cairns in 2007, Hollander wrote in an email. Cairns taught math for three years at Garfield and two years at Firestone. She started at the middle school campus at the new Buchtel CLC in August. Her school personnel file indicates that she was placed on a Plan of Assistance at Firestone to improve her teaching skills.
The photo, according to APS, depicted eight or nine of Cairns’ 16 students with duct tape across their mouths and a caption that read: “Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”
The photo was likely taken in September or October, Hollander said.
According to Hollander, Cairns’ colleague and friend notified a supervisor after viewing the photo. Buchtel Principal Sonya Gordon then notified parents and asked Cairns to delete the photo. No such photo currently is posted on Cairns’ Facebook page, which shows posts through 2011.
The Akron Education Association is requesting a referee to step in, who will make a recommendation to the school board on the case, said union president Jeff Moats when reached at home on Sunday.
The referee will ask and answer the question “did the offense rise to the level of a termination?” said Moats, who declined to go into details of the case. The union will make the request for the referee this week through the union’s attorney, Moats said.
Cairns has an unlisted number and a message sent to her through her Facebook page was not returned Sunday evening.
According to her Facebook and LinkedIn profile, Cairns is a Kent resident and Kent State graduate. She also is an avid marathon runner and founder of On My Own Two Feet, a domestic violence awareness organization.
Her LinkedIn profile states: “If we want to change the world, we have to start in our own homes. As a survivor of domestic abuse, this became my cause, my focus, my inspiration. This mission of this organization is to empower survivors of abuse and to heal them physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.