The Freshwater case still continues

With a brief filed (PDF) in Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals, John Freshwater is appealing a court’s ruling to uphold his termination as a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio. It is the latest twist in a long saga that began in 2008, when a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity — including teaching creationism — and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate his employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011.

Read the whole story here.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Shin
    December 14, 2011

    Wow, I would not think that something like this would still be going on today. I don’t remember hearing this in the news either. Of course I know that schools today are pretty strict about teachers not giving out personal information, religous views being one, to their students, but I would never imagine that a case about religous views brought up in school would last this long and even go to court. I personally think that there is nothing to share about one’s religion because I think that people have the right to believe what they have been believing for most of their lives. From this post, I have no idea about how far the teacher actually went with these “inappropriate religous activity” but I’m still suprised that there is such an issue about religion these days.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    December 15, 2011

    That’s not even the worst news I’ve seen today. Our good ol’ legislators are trying to make detention without cause or recourse legal. Good ol’ Obushma is expected to give his approval (since when has he ever opposed the loonies in the GoP).

  3. #3 marion Delgado
    December 15, 2011

    Richard Hoppe’s sort of in the same position Lauri Lebo (or if you prefer, Matt Chapman or Mike Argento) were in with Kitzmiller v. Dover. It’ll be interesting to see what he says about this undead zombie wave trying to eat the brains of the next generation.

    We need to start paying attention to the TIME and MONEY costs of these kamikaze teachers. As long as it’s the public schools they bankrupt and slow down, it’s worth not teaching anymore (eventually). This has already dragged out longer than Kitzmiller, I think. And the money cost could already be higher.

    What if 1 teacher in every district forced a long and expensive firing process by teaching creationism? Would that break enough budgets to make education in the US an intractable problem? Or would we tacitly go back to the Scopes era?

  4. #4 maureen.brian
    December 15, 2011

    Do you think, Mike Shin, that you should maybe research the whole story – which many of us have been following – before you start shooting your mouth off?

    Would you, for instance, regard branding a pupil with a cross using a Tesla coil as “inappropriate religious activity” or wouldn’t you?

  5. #5 dean
    December 15, 2011

    “his encouraging students to think critically about scientific theories … cannot be rendered illegal based solely on the presumption that Freshwater’s personal beliefs happen to align with one of the competing theories considered,”

    Very clever wording by his lawyers – sneaking in
    * the labeling of creationism (ok, id) as a “theory”, implying it is on equal scientific footing with evolution

    But this seems odd:

    … Freshwater’s personal beliefs happen to align with one of the competing theories considered

    Are they trying to say he was presenting “theories” other than creationism in his classroom?

    Another question: when this was more prominent in the news i recall reading that other science teachers in the district had been on record for some time with complaints that he covered minimally, or not at all, the topic of evolution in his classes and they were left to backfill the information for students. Is that going to come into play in this appeal?

    and accuses the board’s actions of constituting “an outright hostility to religion that … violates the Establishment Clause.”

    They truly are trying to imply by omission that his discussion of religion and related comments in the classroom isn’t a problem, aren’t they?

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    December 15, 2011

    I suspect this is a case where the lawyers for the appellant are trying to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping some of it sticks. They are presumably hoping to uncover some procedural screwup that will allow the appeals court to kick it back to a lower level.

    If the allegation that he really did burn a cross on a student’s arm with a Tesla coil is true (and I have no reason to think it isn’t; there was some discussion of that point in earlier posts on the Freshwater case), then defending himself against charges of “inappropriate religious activity” ought to be the least of Mr. Freshwater’s worries. Aren’t there criminal statutes against burning any sort of symbol (religious or otherwise) on the arm of a middle school student without the explicit consent of the parents?

  7. #7 dean
    December 15, 2011

    “If the allegation that he really did burn a cross on a student’s arm with a Tesla coil is true…”

    I don’t think it was a Tesla coil – I believe it was something he’d cobbled together for a classroom demonstration. And, if I remember correctly, there were two incidents of burning a student: one, where the family didn’t file charges (possibly because image faded away quickly) and another where the parents did file (at least threaten to file) charges.

    Sounds like this Freshwater is a real piece of work.