We haven’t been writing much about this matter because it’s been so well covered by Richard B. Hoppe at Panda’s Thumb. His reporting about this story is far better than anyone else’s.
For those who may not know, this was an administrative hearing to determine whether John Freshwater should be fired as an 8th-grade science teacher in Ohio. He had been accused of burning a cross on a student with a Tesla coil, teaching religion in his science class, and failing to follow the school district’s orders. Freshwater claimed that the district wanted to fire him only because he refused to remove a bible from his desk.
For various reasons, including the presentation of irrelevant issues, but mostly due to numerous scheduling recesses, this thing has lasted more than two years. Along the way there have also been a couple of court cases, but Freshwater lost one of those and dismissed the other, so this excessively prolonged administrative matter was all that remained.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has been following this case. They’ve been linking to (and archiving) the source documents, and they’ve also relied on Richard Hoppe’s posts. Yesterday, in Recommendation in the Freshwater case they conveniently provided background information on the Freshwater litigation outside of the administrative hearing:
Freshwater’s actions also provoked a lawsuit, Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., which was settled in December 2010, with a payment to the plaintiffs [not to Freshwater] of almost half a million dollars. Freshwater filed his own lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in June 2009, but then filed a notice to dismiss it in October 2010.
With all that reporting by Richard and the NCSE, there’s been nothing for your Curmudgeon to do except mention the case’s existence when it appeared in the news. This is probably the last time we’ll be posting about it.
Last week the seemingly endless hearing finally ended. Richard reported Summary of the referee’s recommendation, with a link to the hearing referee’s report (a 13-page pdf file), in which hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd recommended Freshwater’s dismissal. Shepherd’s report concluded with this:
My recommendation to the Board of Education of the Mount Vernon City School District is that the Board terminate John Freshwater’s contract(s) for “good and just cause.”
All that remained at that point was the decision of the Board. Would they accept the referee’s recommendation and terminate Freshwater, or would they ignore Shepherd’s report and retain the creationist? Deciding either way would be controversial.
We predicted that despite some support for Freshwater on the Board and in the local community, the Board would approve the referee’s report and Freshwater would be fired. Why did we think that? Because as long as one is going to be criticized for deciding either way, it’s best to take the most justifiable action. The referee had spent more than two years hearing all the evidence and the Board was in no position to second-guess him. Approving Shepherd’s report would be both simple and defensible.
Well, the Board has acted. Today (or last night, apparently) Richard reports Freshwater: Terminated. He says:
After a nearly two-hour executive session, the Board of Education of the Mount Vernon (Ohio) City School District tonight voted by a 4-1 margin to terminate the teaching contract of John Freshwater.
Unless Freshwater elects to appeal to the Knox County Court of Common Pleas, the first step on the state court ladder, that ends this sorry affair.
There’s nothing we can add. John Freshwater will fade from the news, along with his Tesla coil, his defiant creationism, and his classroom bible. Perhaps he’ll find a new job better suited to his talents — teaching creation science at some religious school. Then things will get back to normal — whatever that may be — in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
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