Drug charges filed against Perkins track coach

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter has filed drug charges against Perkins Schools track coach and middle school teacher Tracey Hiss.

Hiss, accused of providing prescription-strength pain relief patches to students earlier this year, was charged Friday with possession of a dangerous drug. She has not yet entered a plea on the minor misdemeanor.

Baxter reviewed the case with Hiss’ attorney, and the pair agreed to have Baxter file a bill of information, waiving her right to a grand jury.

“It’s my understanding she will be pleading no contest, but a date hasn’t been set yet,” Baxter said.

As part of the agreement, Hiss must complete a diversion probation program. Given that she has no criminal background, the case will then be dismissed with no conviction.

“She has a good record as a teacher and a coach, and she obviously had pretty poor judgement in this situation,” Baxter said. “She certainly needs to be held accountable, but within reason, which is why we came to this resolution.”

During the past school year, Hiss allegedly provided a handful of students with adhesive Lidoderm patches, which contain the drug lidocaine, according to Perkins police reports. Two individuals told athletic director Mike Strohl about the situation after obtaining information from at least four students in early May.

When Strohl approached Hiss, she told him the students stole the patches from her school office, according to a police report.

After reviewing the case, Baxter determined her accusations were not true. As such, students will not be charged.

“I don’t believe that happened, and that needs to be addressed at her plea hearing,” Baxter said.

Because lidocaine is not a scheduled drug listed in the Ohio Revised Code, possession of a dangerous drug is an appropriate citation for both the act of possessing the pain relief patches without a prescription and giving them to students, Baxter said.

It’s unknown how the criminal charge will impact Hiss’ status as a Perkins Schools employee.

District superintendent Jim Gunner gave Hiss a written notice of her suspension with pay May 14, pending the criminal investigation’s outcome.

Hiss was then included in a list of district-wide reductions enacted in June, based on a teacher’s seniority and class subject. Several elementary and middle school elective teachers, including health, were eliminated, so Hiss was no longer considered a district employee.

As of Monday, Gunner said a parttime health position is available at Furry Elementary School. Hiss could be recalled to the position based on her seniority, but the district will not make any decisions until the investigation is completely resolved. Another eliminated teacher with less seniority is currently filling in at the position at a substitute teacher’s pay rate.

“We can’t legally recall (the substitute) to the position until we know Tracey’s legal status,” Gunner said. “The district then has to make a decision whether to take disciplinary action or rehire her, which would take place at a public meeting.”

Lidoderm patches are placed on the skin to numb an area for temporary pain relief, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website. Side effects typically include a range of temporary skin irritations or allergic reactions. Rarely can an individual overdose on local anesthetics such as lidocaine, but serious side effects are possible.