MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) Marietta City Schools held a day-long public hearing Tuesday in the conference room of the Comfort Inn and Suites in Marietta to discuss the termination of a former teacher.
Melanie Lockhart, who taught physical education at Marietta Middle School, was placed on administrative leave last January and then terminated in April.
She requested the hearing under the Ohio Revised code, which entitles a terminated employee to a meeting before the board. The meeting can be public or private.
David Hipp, an attorney from New Philadelphia, Ohio, acted as the hearing officer.
School officials, including Marietta Middle School principal Brittany Schob, assistant principal Tim Fleming and superintendent Will Hampton, testified about what led to Lockhart’s suspension and eventual dismissal.
Schob alleges on Friday, January 19, 2018 that Lockhart told her “she had an episode where He (meaning God) got inside of her, raised her, her body did moves that she never done before.
Lockhart later clarified her "episode" occurred on Jan. 13, while shoveling snow.
She said she was lifted into the air and moved eight to 10 feet away with no sign in the snow, footprints, or such, to explain how.
She then had the sensation of going into a dark tunnel and when she emerged an hour and a half later, she said, she was free of the body pain that she had been suffering from for months.
Lockhart continued that "he" (meaning God) was now controlling her actions and telling her what to do and say and she must comply to keep the pain away.
Schob also said in her testimony that Lockhart said she identified “He” as "my God."
Screenshots of text and Facebook messages between Lockhart and students were submitted as evidence by concerned students.
Schob and Hampton said they were both notfied by students and parents about Lockhart's messages and conversation to students about religious matters.
But Lockhart said she was not talking about religion, but rather "telling her story."
School officials also testified that Lockhart said in subsequent meetings that the school would be making “national news” but would not clarify what that meant.
Hampton, Schob and Fleming each said they feared for the safety of the school and students.
Washington County Sheriff's Office and Vienna Police testified to a wellness check they jointly conducted earlier this year after they were informed about this "national news post."
They visited Lockhart's Vienna home and did not consider her a threat to herself or anyone else.
Schob, Fleming and Hampton also testified that Lockhart admitted that she had used marijuana during this period.
Lockhart later confirmed that she had in fact used the drug, but not at the times specified by Hampton, Schob and Fleming, but during her own personal time outside of school to treat her body pains.
She also said she uses CBD oils.
Hipp concluded the hearing, asking both sides to submit briefs to go along with the official transcript of the hearing.
He will look at everything and make a recommendation to Marietta City Schools.
The final decision concerning this matter will come down to the district.