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Ohio board votes to fire teacher accused of preaching to students

By The Associated Press
06.24.08

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Mount Vernon school board in central Ohio voted 5-0 late on June 20 to move ahead on firing a science teacher after an investigation concluded that he preached his Christian beliefs in class and used a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

The board's attorney, David Millstone, said John Freshwater would be entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal.

Kelly Hamilton, who represents Freshwater, told the Mount Vernon News he would request such a hearing and that Freshwater denied any wrongdoing.

School board members took up the issue one day after consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc. released its report on the teacher's case.

The report was released one week after a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a June 20 story.

Several students interviewed by investigators described Freshwater, who has been employed by the school district for 21 years, as a "great guy" and their "favorite teacher." But Lynda Weston, the district's director of teaching and learning, told investigators that she has dealt with complaints about Freshwater for much of her 11 years at the district.

A former superintendent, Jeff Maley, said he tried to find another position for Freshwater but couldn't because Freshwater was certified only in science, the report said.

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students' arms in December, the report states. Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on three to eight students and described the images an "X'' not a cross. But pictures show the images depict a cross, the report said.

Other findings show Freshwater taught the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He also told his class that homosexuality is a sin.

Mount Vernon is about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.


Related

Judge OKs removal of teacher's Christian-themed posters

Virginia public school district objected to William Lee's displays of articles about President Bush's religious faith, similar topics. 03.01.06

N.J. district bans secret taping after classroom preaching flap
Student says he recorded history teacher's comments because he was afraid school officials wouldn't believe him when he complained. 02.06.07

4th Circuit backs removal of teacher's religious postings
Court rebuffs Virginia educator's claim that classroom bulletin boards were limited public forum open for teachers' private expression. 05.03.07

N.J. coach can't kneel, bow head as team prays, 3rd Circuit says
Reversing lower court ruling, three-judge panel finds school board's policy barring staff from joining in student-led prayer is constitutional. 04.16.08

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