Thursday, March 26, 2009

“Bible on the Desk” Teacher Was Singled Out, Witness Says

The following testimony took place 1:42 P.M.—3:56 P.M. on 3/25/09 and 9:02 A.M.—9:46 A.M. on 3/26/09.

She tried to read the investigative report last summer about her colleague, John Freshwater, but the bias and slant of it disgusted her. It was at that time that she learned she was also doing some of the same things as Freshwater—when she taught science, she used the Tesla coil and she had a Bible on her desk.

Seventh-grade teacher Lori Miller said that during the last three years she has learned more about Freshwater. When her classroom was near his, Miller said she saw Freshwater greeting every one of his students as they came to class. Freshwater even went so far in his efforts to connect with the kids that he asked Miller to look at his eighth-grade student list so he could learn about them from her.

While giving her testimony at the Freshwater hearing, Miller gave her take on the Mount Vernon City Schools’ dealings with Freshwater. “He has been singled out,” Miller said. “The biggest thing is that I still have a Bible on my desk and the administrators know this—and I haven’t been asked to remove it.”

During a meeting on August 21, 2008, Superintendent Steve Short told Miller that she could keep the Bible on her desk, Miller said.

Attorney for the school board, David Millstone, acknowledged—upon listening to an audio recording Miller made of the meeting in question— that Short said she could keep the Bible on her desk until the school board said otherwise.

The Bible is not the only religious item in Miller’s classroom. She also keeps several devotional books on her desk and a rock that has Philippians 4:13 on it: “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” Children come up, see the rock and comment that they like the verse, Miller said.

A bulletin board in her classroom was deemed by the school to be a “religious display” and she was asked to remove the items from the board, Miller said. The items on the board included the daily notes that her husband would write her that included a Bible verse.

Attorney for Freshwater, R. Kelly Hamilton, asked Miller about the Colin Powell/George Bush poster. Miller said she remembers the poster being distributed at the school and that she used to have one in her classroom until it was lost three years ago when she switched rooms.

Before the recent controversy came out, she would say things to her class on a regular basis that were praises to the Lord. She even prayed with kids—be that at lunch time, in the hallway, when students would ask her for prayer or when she felt led to pray for them and so asked them if she could. Miller said that at the time she did not think there was anything wrong with this.

At the end of the school year, Miller said that the mother of one student wrote her and thanked her for being such a good influence.

Miller no longer prays with the students.

After Freshwater refused to remove the Bible from his desk, last April, an allegation emerged that the use of a Tesla coil in his science classroom resulted in a student being burned.

Miller said that when she taught science, she also used the Tesla coil—she gave an estimate of zapping 300 to 400 student volunteers with the device. She first used it on herself before asking who wanted to try it out. The zap only lasted for a fraction of a second as she briefly touched the arc to the student’s arm. Miller said that she did not attempt to create any drawings with it.

The students loved the Tesla coil and would have used it every day if she let them, Miller said.

Miller was shown the school board exhibits of the alleged photos of Zachary Dennis’ arm with burn marks from a Tesla coil. “In all my experiences of using it I have not seen anything even remotely like this,” Miller said. She told about seeing the photos on television and thinking that mark was self induced or caused by something else.

Hamilton asked her if it is appropriate for a teacher to question the textbook. Miller said that she’s had incidences where she found the textbook to be wrong such as once when the textbook gave the weight of an Ostrich egg incorrectly. She told the students, that, “Hey, you have to watch out for stuff like this.”

She went on to explain the importance of this. “They need to know that just because it is printed in the textbook, that doesn’t mean it is right,” Miller said.


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