Mid-Ohio science teacher to lose job — finally 1

John Freshwater will burn crosses on students’ arms no more (see picture released by school officials to the AP, at right), at least in Mount Vernon, Ohio. He has been sacked. On Friday, the Mount Vernon school board reviewed a 15-page investigative report on Freshwater’s actions in the classroom, and voted to dismiss the science teacher of 21 years. Freshwater had been accused, among other things, of using a Tesla coil to burn a cross in a student’s arm, proselytizing students, teaching creationism contrary to school policy, and refusing to remove a Bible from his desk. He and school officials still face legal action. The family of the student whose arm was burned filed a civil complaint in US District Court in Columbus last week, naming Freshwater and school officials as defendants. The law suit alleges Freshwater’s religious activities in the classroom violated the civil rights of the student, known only as John Doe. The complaint also alleges school officials failed to reprimand Freshwater sufficiently after the arm-burning incident, and permitted him to proselytize students in class in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Freshwater, a fundamentalist Christian by all appearances, became a poster child for the ...

Religious “minutemen” pressure mid-Ohio school board

Meanwhile, in Mount Vernon, Ohio, a group calling itself the “Minutemen” is pushing the local school board to explain why a 7th grade science teacher cannot keep a Bible on his desk, or it will “recall” school board members. School officials say the matter is still under consideration. The teacher in question is John Freshwater, a popular but controversial teacher, who has refused his superiors’ demands that he remove his Bible from students’ view. Freshwater is also under investigation for allegedly burning a cross on a student’s arm, for disseminating religious literature during class, and for proselytizing students. The Minutemen are undoubtedly affiliated with another Christian nutcase up there, “Coach” Dave Daubenmire, who quickly came to Freshwater’s support after the Bible incident. Daubenmire supports a rightwing Christian group, the Minutemen Unlimited. In a letter to school officials, the Mount Vernon Minutemen say they will replace the school board if the school system does not announce its supports the Bible. “Although we do not want this to be taken as a threat, we feel it is only right that we inform you that if a public statement is not made in support of the Bible by June 10 we will have ...

Parents criticize, defend mid-Ohio science teacher at board meeting 1

Seventh-grade science teacher John Freshwater has his supporters, but his religious agenda in the classroom has clearly not won over everyone in Mount Vernon, Ohio. At a school board meeting Monday night, he had as many friends as foes in the audience. Freshwater made headlines several weeks ago when he refused to remove his Bible from his classroom desk. Soon, there were allegations that he was preaching religion in class, distributing creationist literature to his science students, and that he allegedly burned a cross on a student’s arm with an electrical device. The school district has hired an independent investigator to substantiate or refute the allegations. Freshwater was allowed to continue teaching meanwhile, with an administrative observer in the classroom to monitor him. The device he allegedly used to burn the student is in fact a hand-held Tesla coil, a staple of science education. My students have seen it in action. It can generate high voltage arcs a few centimeters long when held near a ground. While the sparks are not lethal, they can cause pinpoint skin burns that can be pretty painful. I speak from experience. It boggles the mind why any teacher would subject a student to a ...

Know-nothingness at a mid-Ohio middle school

Sometimes you’ve got to wonder if any Christianists have any critical thinking abilities. Well, nevermind, I know the answer to the question already, but here’s yet more evidence that fundies “just don’t get it.” The scene is Mount Vernon (Ohio) Middle School, where seventh-grade science teacher and Christianist John Freshwater stands accused of, among other things, proselytizing his students, burning a cross in a student’s skin, and teaching creationism against district policies. His district is investigating the charges. It seems that some students (and parents, I’ll betcha) assume that if you’re not for Freshwater, you’re not a Christian. Or worse yet, if you’re not Christian, you can’t support him. Witness these quotes from the local newspaper: Several comments from students and parents indicate that acceptance and religious tolerance is a one-way street for many concerned. Beth Murdoch, whose daughter attends the middle school, is one of the parents who has expressed concerns about the sometimes hostile environment at the middle school. “You’re either for Mr. Freshwater or you’re against Mr. Freshwater. There’s no in between,” Murdoch said. “In the kids’ minds, I think, it is just the Bible issue. And who is going to go against the Bible? Nobody. But ...

Ohio science teacher had religious agenda, colleague says

Mount Vernon teacher John Freshwater is in hot water because he teaches religion a little bit too much in his eighth grade science classes. A former colleague says his superiors knew of Freshwater’s religious agenda, but have done little about it until recently. Freshwater first hit the news several days ago when school officials told him to remove his Bible from clear view of his students. The teacher refused, prompting both a student rally supporting him and an advisory notice from the American Civil Liberties Union supporting school administrators. The religious Right seized the controversy as another attack on religion. Then other details about Freshwater’s classroom behavior came to light. He keeps a stack of Bibles in his room to loan out to students. He passes out pro-creationist literature to counter scientific explanations of the Big Bang and evolution. He allegedly burned a cross on at least one student’s arm as part of a demonstration of electricity. He taught his classes the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. Freshwater has had a religious agenda for some time. Quoting a former colleague, Retired middle school science teacher Jeff George, the Mount Vernon News reported yesterday: George said there may be substance ...

When religion and teaching don’t mix 1

Central Ohio is the latest hotspot for lunatic religious types imposing their beliefs on hapless students. John Freshwater, an 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon, has allegedly used an electrostatic device to leave Christian crosses on students’ skin, passed out anti-evolution brochures, and taught his science classes about the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. When administrators told him he had to remove a Bible from his desktop, Freshwater refused, inspiring a student rally on his behalf and an opposing response from the American Civil Liberties Union. Mount Vernon school officials have arranged for an independent investigation into the allegations against Freshwater, according to the local newspaper. He will continue to teach, but with an administrator present to monitor his behavior. If the issue were just the presence of a single Bible on his desk, Freshwater would not be in such hot water. As it is, he has several Bibles in his classroom, which he loans out to students. Further, it is clear he uses his role as teacher to impose his religious beliefs on his students. Even if the majority of students share those beliefs, as a public school teacher (not to mention a science teacher) he is ...
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