JISHOU, HUNAN — Back when I was a science teacher, I started blogged about an Ohio public school science teacher who got in hot water for (1) allegedly using a Tesla coil on his students, (2) teaching evolution was false and (3) going overboard with his religious proselytizing in the classroom.
Without going into a lot of details, let’s just say that teacher, John Freshwater of Mount Vernon, was removed from classroom teaching pending an administrative hearing about insubordination. After a two-year-long administrative hearing process, Freshwater lost his job earlier this year. He and the Mount Vernon school system were also named in a federal discrimination complaint brought by a student’s family; the school district settled out of court and Freshwater, following an unsuccessful appeal, also had to pay damages to the family. Meanwhile, he filed, and later dropped, his own discrimination complaint in federal court against the school system.
So, after all these proceedings which suggest that Freshwater was to some degree culpable, I learn that he has the nerve to play the victim card on David Barton and Rick Green’s WallBuilders Live radio program.
Here’s a partial transcript, courtesy of Right Wing Watch.
Freshwater: When the 2007/2008 school year came along, there was a new principal, a new Superintendent, and three new school board members and what took place that year was they wanted me to removed my Bible from my desk. And I felt I have academic freedoms and I thought I had the right to have my Bible on my desk, so I left it on my desk in 2007/2008 school year and they told me to remove it and that was when they suspended me – April 16, 2008 – they suspended me without pay and I’ve been in litigation since then, the last four years.
Green: What’s their complaint about having a Bible on your desk? I thought teachers were allowed to do that?
Freshwater: You know what? I thought so too, but they said I needed to remove it from my desk. Here is what it comes down to Rick, and it’s this: there is a lot of fear in public school teachers, especially Christian public school teachers. They put fear into them and they keep them ignorant; they don’t teach them, they don’t train them on it, so what a teacher does is they take off their religious beliefs, they take their hat off before they walk into a public school building because they don’t want to lose their job. They really don’t have a good understanding of this whole thing called religious belief and separation of church and state, it has been convoluted, it has been putting fear in the people and it is sad, it’s very sad for a public school teacher in a public school in America today.
Freshwater conveniently omitted the religious posters on his classroom walls, the shelf full of Bibles for students to borrow, his teaching of creationism in class, and comments disparaging Catholics, among others, as not being Christian, which were significant charges that led to his removal from teaching and the federal suit against him and the school system. It is true his principal told him to remove his Bible from his desk, so it was not in plain sight. It is also true that Freshwater refused, and also refused to change any of his other actions that got him and the school in hot water.
As for the malarkey that public school teachers have to leave their religion in the school parking lot, there are no laws that forbid teachers from keeping a Bible in their desk, praying privately or stating their own beliefs in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way to their students. There are laws, however, that forbid them from teaching creationism or Intelligent Design as valid “scientific theories” or using their teacher’s desk as a church pulpit to preach to a captive audience.
i won’t even mention the unprofessional, nay, stupid, practice of using a Tesla coil (technically, a high-voltage, high-frequency vacuum leak tester) to give volunteer students skin burns in the shape of an “x” (or a cross, depending on your viewpoint). These charges were also part of Freshwater’s legal woes, if not the catalyst that brought his other dubious actions to light.
Cry me a river, John Freshwater. You’re not a victim here. You’re the instigator — you made your own bed, now lie in it.
If any readers are sufficiently curious to read about the Strange and Curious Case of John Freshwater, this link will take you to the Panda’s Thumb, where Richard Hoppe has chronicled in excruciating detail the whole saga.