Ohio teacher faces firing for teaching creationism

Yesterday’s New York Times describes the case of John Freshwater, an Ohio teacher who was suspended for prosyletizing in the science classroom, and for burning crosses into his students’ arms as a demonstration of electricity.  The final verdict on his case, which has gone on for nearly two years, will be handed down tomorrow.

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk. . .

In a radio interview in 2008, he said he had been a target for removal since 2003, when he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact. “I ruffled some feathers,” he said. . .

One high school teacher said she consistently had to reteach evolution to Mr. Freshwater’s students because they did not master the basics. Another testified that Mr. Freshwater told his students they should not always take science as fact, citing as an example a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality.“Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

School officials said Mr. Freshwater’s science classroom was adorned with at least four copies of the Ten Commandments and several other posters that included verses from Scripture.

If these assertions are true (and they were verified by witnesses), then that’s enough for me.  Freshwater must go unless he deep-sixes religion in the classroom.

And what about those crosses?

Mr. Freshwater, who declined to be interviewed, has said he did not mean to burn a cross on any student’s arm. Instead, he said he intended to leave a temporary X on the skin using a device called a Tesla coil during a science demonstration. He says he had done that, with no complaints, hundreds of times in his 21 years as a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School.

Well, here (from Panda’s Thumb) is a photo of one of those marks, and it sure looks like a cross to me.  What “X” has such a long arm? Let’s hope the law has equally long arms. . .

18 Comments

  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    A sentence of 5 years for most of his crimes sounds about right with another 5 years added on concurrently for mutilating people.

  2. MadScientist
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Ohio is in Uganda, right?

    If the cross had a shorter leg and resembled an ‘X’ that would be a “St. Andrew’s Cross”.

    Burning students with a Tesla coil is cruel and unusual punishment and extremely irresponsible. Radiofrequency burns are not pleasant at all, nor would I want any of my students to be the second person reported to have died thanks to a Tesla coil. The device is dangerous enough that although I’d love to build one I can’t help worrying that someone might play with it and hurt or kill themselves. What were the students meant to be learning when they were branded? If I were demonstrating something like an electrocautery device (another radio frequency source, used in surgery) I would cut a piece of steak, or a piece of pork belly.

    • Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Yeah really… even if it wasn’t supposed to be a cross, that’s still a really really really bad idea.

  3. matt
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I had a physics teacher in HS who would zap my friend when he was sleeping. But he also was on friendly terms with her otherwise (we were part of a group she lead making physics web problems for other schools) and knew he deserved it.

  4. FrankN.Stein
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    hm… i hadn’t thought i’d ever say that, but his teaching of creationism seems to be the minor concern about this teacher.

  5. Darrell E
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    If what has been reported about this guy is true, and I have no particular reason to doubt otherwise, this guy needs to be spanked hard. The maximum that the law / regulations, etc. allows. This guys combination of stupidity and arrogance makes him too dangerous to be allowed a position where he can mentally distort and physically harm children. Having rules does no good as a deterrent if you never meaningfully enforce them.

  6. Kyle
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Good grief! For one thing, why does this guy still have a job? He’s a *science* teacher, for crying out loud! For another, burning crosses into students’ skin? This person deserves not only firing but jail time.

    Then again, I shouldn’t be this surprised. We are talking about Ohio here…

    • Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      He fought the termination which is his right under his contract. That it has lasted so long is ridiculous.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Not just being dismissed, but a full psychiatric assessment needs to be made to see if the chap is even fit to be let loose in public, let alone in loco parentis of vulnerable children.
      He should be institutionalised pending the outcome.
      This dude is a cot-case.

  7. Posted January 21, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Richard Hoope has been covering the story more-or-less continually over at Panda’s Thumb throughout this sorry saga.

  8. Screechy Monkey
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    More oppression of the persecuted Christian majority!

  9. Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Proselytizing bigotry in science class? Promoting scripture over research? Physically abusing students?

    Fire him, jail him, and slap a fine on the school system for hiring this creep in the first place.

  10. DagoRed
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    From the parents of the branded student:

    “We are Christians,” she said, “who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

    It brings me hope for the future to finally find a case where a liberal-minded Christian who FINALLY fights against the true enemy in their religious community — the evangelical fundamentalist — rather than attacking those of us who simply don’t believe at all and pose no threat at all.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, at least some of the plaintiffs in the Dover ID case were Christians. The creationists accused them all of being atheists, but it wasn’t so.

      • DagoRed
        Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Very true — and Kitzmiller v. Dover was far more heartening than this one will be if/when Freshwater loses. I stand corrected. It brings me hope for the future to finally find TWO cases where….

  11. Posted November 12, 2010 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I think it’s time for her to go and find her rocking chair and catch some ‘shut-eye’ on the back porch. She probably has enough retirement built up by now. It’s time to replace her with someone who really wants to be there. Unfortunately this is probably more common than we think.

  12. Posted November 12, 2010 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I’m not against creationism being taught as an opposing view to evolution because both sides need to be presented fairly. Evolution, contrary to most evolutionists opinions is not fact but theory. Students need to understand both views, debate it and come to their own conclusions. With that said, this teacher went a little far and should be removed, not for teaching creationism but for burning crosses into a couple of his students.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted November 12, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      No Clay, you don’t understand the word theory. Evolution is also a fact. It has hundreds of thousands of pieces of evidence in fossils, geology, bio-geography, embryology, DNA, anatomy and other disciplines. Creation is completely bereft of any evidence and has nothing to corroborate it. It is not a theory or a hypothesis at all. It is a fiction of deluded minds. Teaching creationism is also illegal in the US.


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