On Friday, June 20th, the Mount Vernon Ohio school board voted 5 to 0 to terminate John Freshwater, an 8th grade science teacher, from his job. He is at the center of a dispute over his pushing of his religious beliefs on his students during school hours. See my previous post on the issue: Ohio Teacher violates 1st Amendment – Doesn’t have a clue he did
The action comes after the board considered a report from an independent investigation of Freshwater after it came to light that he had used a science experiment to burn crosses in the arm of at least two students, a dispute over having a Bible in his room, and charges he taught the religious creationism concept of Intelligent Design in his classes.
Eighth-graders who were taught by John Freshwater frequently had to be re-taught in high school what they were supposed to have learned in Freshwater’s class, according to outside investigators hired by the district.
For 11 years, other teachers in the school district and people in the community complained about Freshwater preaching his Christian beliefs in class and slamming scientific theories, a school administrator told investigators.
“There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwater’s teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and state standards,” the consultants reported.
Freshwater was told to stop teaching intelligent design and creationism, but he continued, the report found.
The report confirmed that Freshwater burned crosses onto students’ arms, using an electrostatic device, in December.
Freshwater told investigators the marks were X’s, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student’s arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.
Here is a video report from a Columbus TV station about the story:
Freshwater commented in a later news report that the issue was only about having his Bible in the classroom. I think what finally caused the school board to act, after all these years, was the lawsuit and liability from his science experiment that burned crosses into student’s arms. The rest of the charges were just frosting on the cake.
The investigation showed:
There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwaters’ teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and State standards. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement, the evidence indicates he has been teaching creationism and intelligent design and has been teaching the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He has passed out materials to students for the past several years challenging evolution and then collecting the materials back from the students. He has done so in spite of specific directives not to teach creationism or intelligent design. He has taught students to use the code word “Here” to challenge scientific process that is considered settled by the high school science teachers.
In addition, there is evidence that Mr. Freshwater inappropriately said to his class that science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and therefore is a sinner.
Mr. Freshwater did improperly use an electrostatic device on the student who filed the complaint and other students in his science class in a manner that was not in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions. While there did not appear to be any intent by Mr. Freshwater to cause injury to any student, he was not using the device for its intended purpose. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement he simply made an “X” not a “cross,” all of the students described the marking as a “cross” and the pictures provided depict a “cross”.
If Freshwater wants to delude himself into thinking the action was only the result of him asserting his so-called First Amendment rights then he needs some serious help.