ONTD Political

[TW Abuse] Teacher Burns Crucifix Onto Student’s Arms, Sues When Fired

8:54 pm - 11/13/2012
In a case that has been litigated since 2008 (and is still ongoing), John Freshwater, a teacher who previously lived and worked in Mount Vernon, Ohio, insists that his First Amendment rights and “academic freedom” were violated when he was fired by the school district for teaching Creationism in class and burning a cross into the arms of students using a Tesla coil.

From the report that lead to his firing:

Mr. Freshwater was insubordinate in failing to remove all of the religious materials from his classroom as ordered by his superior, Principal White.

-Mr. Freshwater did burn a cross onto the complaining family’s child’s arm using an electrostatic device not designed for that purpose
-The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White’s letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.
-Several Bibles were kept in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom including his personal Bible on his desk and one he checked out of the library placed on the lab table near the desk. Other Bibles that had been maintained in the room were removed by the time the investigators viewed Mr. Freshwater’s room.
-Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose.
-Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA meetings in violation of the District’s legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.
-Mr. Freshwater participated and possibly lead a prayer during an FCA meeting that concerned a guest speaker’s health. There is no conclusion as to whether such prayer was a “healing” prayer.
-Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie “Expelled” which does involve intelligent design.

It’s important to note that Freshwater did not work at a religious institute but a regular public school (not that branding would be acceptable at ANY kind of school). Freshwater knows, as does every Creationist teacher, that the courts have struck down (over and over again), in the harshest possible terms, any attempt to legally teach Creationism, Intelligent Design or any other phony variation of anti-evolution claptrap in public schools. It’s a direct violation of the Separation Clause in the First Amendment. Freshwater did not care. How do we know Freshwater knew he was breaking the law? Like any common criminal, he tried to hide the evidence:

There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwater’s teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and State standards. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement, the evidence indicates he has been teaching creationism and intelligent design and has been teaching the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He has passed out materials to students for the past several years challenging evolution and then collecting the materials back from the students. He has done so in spite of specific directives not to teach creationism or intelligent design. He has taught students to use the code word “Here” to challenge scientific process that is considered settled by the high school science teachers.

However, it is equally clear that Freshwater is hoping to be a new test case. His claim of “academic freedom” is simply a new tactic to force religion into the classroom. Via Alternet:

“Academic freedom was once the bedrock of American education,” Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead said in a media statement. “That is no longer the state of affairs, as this case makes clear. What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don’t need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

This sounds like a solid argument but its foundation is pure quicksand. “Academic freedom,” in this case, is the “freedom” to teach whatever one believes regardless of whether it has any basis in reality whatsoever. By this standard, a history teacher can teach that slaves were happy to be slaves and that the Civil War was the worst thing to ever happen to the black population of America. A biology teacher could teach that germs are not the cause of disease but rather an imbalance of the humors. A science teacher can teach that dinosaurs never existed and that fossils were planted by Satan to make us doubt God. All this and more under the guise of “academic freedom.”

What makes this case worth noting today is that, despite having lost in court twice, the Ohio Supreme Court has decided to take up the case. If it fails there, Freshwater will no doubt try to make a federal case out of it (literally). The federal courts are riddled with partisan extremists appointed by the Bush administration, the Supreme Court being the most obvious example. As many times as Creationist anti-science loses, it only needs to win once to set a precedent. In much the same way that Voter ID laws spread throughout the country like a virus, so, too, would a successfully litigated case of “academic freedom” spread to every school district with religious fanatics on its board.

This “academic freedom” bit fails, as all Christian Fundamentalist claims to “religious freedom” do, to pass the Muslim Test. If Freshwater’s children came home with a copy of the Koran and instructions to read up on how Jesus was a prophet and not the son of God, it is inconceivable that he would smile and be happy for the “academic freedom” of a Muslim teacher. People like Freshwater do not want freedom for all, they want special “freedoms” for their brand of twisted Christianity.

chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 04:44 am (UTC)
Reading more about this, I have to say, this article is misleading and definitely sensationalist. There is definitely more to this story.
mollywobbles867 14th-Nov-2012 04:49 am (UTC)
Really? There's more to the story? What could that possibly be?
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 04:51 am (UTC)
Well for starters, it looks like it wa spossibly an accident and not even supposed to be a cross, though there is no doubt that the teacher was religious. A friend of mine who is a lawyer, read the brief and explained it to me. There's also this on wikipedia (I know, wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Freshwater#Doe_v._Mount_Vernon_Board_of_Education_et_al

I don't have a link to the brief, otherwise I'd link that too. It's just that this isn't as straight forward as this article make sit seem and there's a reason why this is going to the State Supreme Court.

eta: For the record I don't agree with what this guy did, but this article is not very good.

eta2: These are the guy's lawyers: https://www.rutherford.org/about/

Edited at 2012-11-14 04:53 am (UTC)
yeats 14th-Nov-2012 05:15 am (UTC)
idk man...from the dispatch article on the outside report that got him fired in the first place:

The report confirms that Freshwater burned crosses onto students’ arms, using an electrostatic device, in December. Freshwater told investigators the marks were Xs, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student’s arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.

if the kids all think it's a cross, and it looks like a cross...
teacoat 14th-Nov-2012 05:20 am (UTC)
But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses.

Were there multiple students that got burned?
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 05:22 am (UTC)
According to that there were, but only the one kid was brought up in court, so I find that highly suspect.
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 05:21 am (UTC)
Their testimony seems to be a bit different though. Also that he had been a teacher at that place for 20 years. I don't know, the brief and other stuff I have read lead me to beleive this article is very sensationlist and that there are some valid reasons as to why a lawyer would take his case to the supreme court.

I also find his deliberately branding to be suspect. It seems like an accident. The fact that only one kid has come forward in 20 years seems like he's been doing a really dumb, dangerous experiement that he shouldn't be doing, but that he's not going willy nilly branding children. Also, where are the photos of all of those kids being branded? I just don't believe it.

I am not on this teacher's side, but I do think this article is misleading.

eta: for what it's worth, I do think it looks like a cross. But was that the teacher's intent?

Edited at 2012-11-14 05:22 am (UTC)
yeats 14th-Nov-2012 05:27 am (UTC)
i thought you said above you hadn't read the brief...

honestly, even if you take out the bit about branding, i think there's more than enough evidence -- evidence that went uncontested -- to say that this guy's religious opinions were influencing his teaching to the extent that he wasn't able to educate his students properly. which means that he was very well fired for good reason.
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 05:33 am (UTC)
Oh oops, I didn't read the brief but my friend explained it to me. I did read other stuff. My bad. Sorry about that! I wasn't thinking and should have put a comma after brief, or made it its own sentence.

I agree about his religious opinions influencing his teaching, a science teacher at that. But this article seems to focus on the branding, which I find highly suspect. This article just seems to be a sensationlist piece and not very good journalism. I'm also not saying that I don't think he should have been fired, just that there's more to this case and there are reasons why this has taken so long, besides the fact that he's Christian or whatever.

Edited at 2012-11-14 05:34 am (UTC)
roseofjuly 14th-Nov-2012 06:13 am (UTC)
A religious teacher cited multiple times for violating separation of church and state just accidentally happened to brand a child in a shape resembling the cross? Uh-huh.
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 06:26 am (UTC)
You really don't think the branding could have been an accident? I'm guessing the guy's not in jail for lack of proof as to his intent. This doesn't necessarily mean it was an accident, as I wasn't there, etc., but there's a definite possibility that it was. Assuming it wasn't just because the teacher is religious, is wrong imo.
pleasure_past 14th-Nov-2012 10:27 am (UTC)
He just happened to brand MULTIPLE children with the exact same shape that just happened to be a cross. Nope, he's not even claiming it was an accident.


Edited at 2012-11-14 10:39 am (UTC)
pleasure_past 14th-Nov-2012 11:01 am (UTC)
He admitted that it was deliberate and that he had done it more than 100 times. Now, apparently only one student found the branding to be "extremely painful" and to leave long-lasting marks, but all of the students asked agreed that it was definitely a cross shape. The Board of Education did dismiss the claim as largely sensationalized and simply tell him not to repeat this "experiment," but frankly even if only 1 in 100 kids got seriously hurt I can't imagine any way for an "experiment" that involves deliberately burning 13-year-olds whose consent is questionable at best to not be grossly unethical and grounds for immediate termination, sanction by the institutional review board, and possibly prison time.
trobadora 14th-Nov-2012 08:53 am (UTC)
... wait, what? So this guy deliberately burnt multiple children, but it's okay because the burns weren't meant to be crosses?

sfrlz 14th-Nov-2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
Seriously why hasn't anyone else said this?
magicpebble 14th-Nov-2012 04:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, was just about to make this same comment. Clearly this guy crossed a line, but he's probably not quite the monster this article would have you believe.
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 04:54 am (UTC)
Yeah. What he did was wrong, but there's a LOT missing from this article. Including the incredibly suspect parents and the fact that this was most likely an accident and not the 'branding' this article says it was.
magicpebble 14th-Nov-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
Exactly. If there was sound evidence that this guy purposefully "branded" a student he'd probably be in prison.
chantalzola 14th-Nov-2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Yup. This is a bad piece of journalism.
pleasure_past 14th-Nov-2012 10:34 am (UTC)
He admits to deliberately burning students. The only thing he's contesting is whether or not the burns were crosses.

Yeah, even if we remove the religious subtext here, anyone who thinks that deliberately burning 8th-graders sounds like a totally legit and ethical science experiment needs to be fired and thrown in prison yesterday.
magicpebble 14th-Nov-2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
Ahh, okay, a couple of the articles I read made it sound like a science experiment gone wrong. I agree with you, though, even that sounds questionable and definitely merits at least firing.
moonbrightnites 14th-Nov-2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
This. I can't even believe what I'm reading here. He deliberately burned children.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
OK, if it was an accident, that's entirely different - that shit happens, no matter how careful you might be trying to be.
pleasure_past 14th-Nov-2012 10:37 am (UTC)
It wasn't an accident. He admits not only to deliberately doing it, but to deliberately doing it "a hundred times."
circumambulate 14th-Nov-2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
I'm having a hard time coming up with any scenario in which you would get a mark like that by "accident", it's simply too large.
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