Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Re-teaching John Freshwater’s Ace Students

The following testimonies took place on 10/30/08—this article relies on the official hearing transcript for details of the testimonies.

At least one high school teacher claimed that she had to “re-teach” students that came to her from the eighth grade science class of John Freshwater. During the 2007-2008 school year, Freshwater’s students passed the Ohio Achievement Test at the highest rate for the school—meeting and exceeding state standards.

An investigative report commissioned by the school stated that multiple high school teachers complained of having to “re-teach” Freshwater’s students—but the report did not give the names of the teachers allegedly making that claim.

Freshwater is on unpaid administrative leave pending an ongoing hearing into his performance as a teacher. (Following his refusal to remove a Bible off his desk, allegations emerged that a student was burned during a science demonstration and that he taught creationism in class.)

High School Principal Kathy Kasler

The report by H.R. On Call (HROC) included the statement that the high school principal, Kathy Kasler, received complaints about Freshwater from the teachers. “The High School Principal said that Mr. Freshwater has caused issues for her high school teachers in having to reeducate students from his teachings,” the report stated.

Kasler never sat in on any of Freshwater’s classes. She acknowledged that she has no firsthand knowledge about the allegations against Freshwater.

Freshwater’s students performed well on the OAT, Kasler said.

The complaints Kasler said she received were from four teachers including ninth grade teacher Bonnie Schutte. Kasler said that Schutte was the only person to bring “surveys” from the students.

The surveys were conducted at the beginning of the year and covered the topics of what the students “dislike about science”, “like about science” and “what they want to be in future.” Kasler said that Schutte had been bringing those surveys to her for all of the eight years they had known each other.

The HROC report quoted from some of the surveys. The comments included: “Evolution, and why that isn’t probable and how it is.” “The Big bang theory was the most important concept I learned in science.” “Studying evolution out of the book because it is all opinion. Not proven facts.”

Freshwater taught about 100 students per year—Schutte would bring surveys from about 20 students, Kasler said. Of the three or four times that Freshwater’s name would be mentioned in one year’s batch of surveys, the comments students would put down were “I liked when he taught, he showed us how to view (sic), that we should not believe everything,” Kasler said.

Some of the surveys did not have a student name on them, but of the ones that did, Kasler said she checked and found out who their teacher from the eighth grade had been. She said the names checked out as being former students of Freshwater.

Attorney for Freshwater, R. Kelly Hamilton, asked Kasler if she knew what Schutte may have said about Freshwater in her classroom. Kasler was not aware of Schutte saying anything about Freshwater, but she had not asked Schutte about that.

Kasler said she had passed the complaints on to the principal of the middle school.

When Kasler had a child in the eighth grade, she said she requested to not have her child in Freshwater’s class:

“[Because of the subject of creationism] my husband had told us if anything like that gets pulled and my child has him, I will in a heartbeat call the ACLU, and I don't care where you work. So in order to keep peace in my family and life simpler, I made a request.”

Schutte said that she probably would have made the same request even without her husband’s prompting.

Ninth Grade Science Teacher Bonnie Schutte

Student Surveys

Bonnie Schutte said that the surveys she had the students fill out were not intended to be scientific surveys. She acknowledged that the surveys did not isolate variables such as where the student learned the information that they wrote down.

Attorney Hamilton stated for the record that he objects to the surveys as evidence—describing them as hearsay. (It is very likely that the referee, R. Lee Shepherd, will agree. He has even declined to allow sworn affidavits from people unless they appear in person.)

Schutte said that she has never been in Freshwater’s classroom and does not know firsthand what he teaches.

During her testimony, Schutte gave conflicting information as to how long she had been conducting the surveys and turning in information about Freshwater’s students.

The first time she was asked, she said it had been for the last 19 years—she even gave names of some of the principals she made the complaints to: Ms. Kasler, John Kuntz, Blain Young and that there was another principal that she could not remember the name of.

The second time, Hamilton worded the question as “You've been focused on John Freshwater for 19 years in this regard, correct?”

“No, sir. I go about my daily teaching,” Schutte replied.

Schutte said that it would have actually been around the year 2002 that she started making her complaints to administration.


The term “re-teaching” had at least two different meanings for Schutte: First, that the students already knew the material so they were re-learning it. Second, that they were disagreeing with her in class and needed to learn to accept what she was telling them.

Schutte described students that came to her from Freshwater’s class as “bored”:

“[S]ince Mr. Freshwater had one third of the students I teach, then those students think they already know about chemistry, so I have to have them, you know, kind of cool their heels a little bit while I explain to the other students what an atom is and that type of thing. They're bored. They think they know everything already. They don't know why we use the periodic table or that you don't memorize it and you don't know why we learn it. They've memorized it so they're done.”

The other problem Schutte ran into was students speaking up in class—she said that they would say things like: “that's not what Mr. Freshwater said or that's not true” , “carbon dating isn't true or isn't accurate” , “There's no evidence for Big Bang” and “The reason there are dragons in so many cultures is that people and dinosaurs lived at the same time.”

Schutte said that students can have their own opinions but that they need to learn the material.

Controversy Among Scientists

Attorney for the school board, David Millstone, asked Schutte about controversies in the scientific community over theories, to which she replied:

“I don't know that there would -- I can't think of a situation where there would be a controversy in the scientific community about a theory.”


“They literally gather data, write to each other, now they can email each other and discuss everything. They get together and talk about it and they agree, okay, this is a body of evidence that's supporting all this, yeah, we're on the right track.”

Schutte acknowledged that there are some disagreements among scientists—such as disputes over the age of things. “There’s arguments as to 4.3 or 4.5, the universe 13 or 20 billion years,” Schutte said.

On the subject of evolution, Schutte said that there is “discussion” among scientists over punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism.

Scientific Definitions

Attorney Hamilton shared with Schutte an excerpt from an “observation form” about Freshwater’s class that was filled out by former principal Jeff Kuntz:

“The lesson began with Mr. Freshwater giving three statements to his pupils. A hypothesis is an educated guess. A theory is an established fact that scientists believe to be true. To infer is to get an idea from your observation. These statements were shared one at a time from student to student around the room. Mr. Freshwater timed each activity.”

Hamilton then asked if Schutte agreed with the definitions.

On “hypothesis”: “I think by telling students a hypothesis is an educated guess, it gives them the wrong interpretation. It's not guesswork. You have to have background information before you can make a hypothesis, so you're not really guessing. But that's what most people tell -- how most people teach it.”

On “theory”: “But the thing -- theory is an established fact that scientists believe to be true. The word believe. […] The term believe I don't think should have been used, but I can see why somebody would say it that way.”

On “infer”: “[T]hat's fine.”

Schutte agreed that, based on the form, former principal Kuntz found Freshwater’s teaching on the matter to be acceptable.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Watching the movie Expelled, and then writing about it, was one option on an extra credit assignment given by Freshwater. Attorney Millstone asked Schutte if she was familiar with the movie and if she would consider it something that related to the science standards.

Schutte said that she had not seen the movie but had watched an interview of the movie’s producer, Ben Stein, and had read descriptions of the film. She said that it did not relate to the science standards.

The movie includes the claim that people in the education profession have lost their jobs because they expressed belief in Intelligent Design. Schutte said that claim was false. “So it wasn't because they were intelligent design people,” Schutte said. “They weren't researching. So the implication that they were fired because they're creationists isn't true. I know that's part of the movie and that's from the National Science Teachers Association.”

A search of the NSTA website (using the search term “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”) turned up two entries—an article and a podcast. Both items relied on the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) for their information on the movie.

The mission statement on the website of the NCSE says that the organization is “dedicated to keeping evolution in the science classroom and creationism out.”


Anonymous said...

AWESOME ARTICLE!! I am glad the students learned how to think critically!! I hate schools that engage in simple brainwashing techniques. We need to be more open minded in order to actually be able to explain some of the phenomena that we see in our world. Too much is just unexplained...

Anonymous said...

Liberals currently just want to have a monopoly on education and engage in brainwashing techniques. That is why the liberals are all upset about Freshwater.

Indoctrination is currently being done by the Secularist and they don't allow kids to critically evaluate the theories.

Freshwater's student scored high because they were able to actually analyze the information. This is something that should be encouraged!!

Anonymous said...

It is pretty obvious that Freshwater was trying to follow all the rules. I wish he would have actually been bold and been authentic with his students.

It is so sad that a Christian has to go to teach and is forced to act like a Secularist. We have freedom of speech and religion; however, it appears that Freshwater gets stripped of these rights. He is forced to be someone who he is not.

It is so sad that the religion of Secularism is able to beat Freshwater up and then try to hang him because he is a Christian.

We really need to allow freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the classroom. Teachers should be allowed to be authentic with their students.

Freshwater is being forced to act like a Secularist and this is wrong!!

Anonymous said...

As an agent of the state Freshwater has no right to indoctrinate a captured audience of 13 year olds. There is a place and time for it, and it is NOT in a public Middle School. He must follow the laws!

Anonymous said...

Plus he used a tesla coil improperly on a student when the instrument clearly is not to be used on human flesh.

Anonymous said...

Indoctrination is already being done by liberals whose religion is Secularism. Secularism holds values that are directly opposed by Christians.

Christians are offended daily by the attacks directed against our faith!!

Instead of just giving Secularist freedom of speech, we should also give Christians the same freedom of speech. All teachers should be allowed to be authentic in the classroom.

We should not be forcing people to act like Secularist when they are in fact Christians.

Anonymous said...

In a public school, the Constitutions requires freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is in our Constitution. It appears that the board has not read that document before.

Freshwater has the same rights as a Secularist to go beyond the minimum requirements set by the board. It happens everyday at school by all teachers.

Anonymous said...

Ya, if you get public funding, then they have to follow the Constitution.

The board should resign and start a private school that is geared towards just Secularist.

If people are so afraid of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, they should go to a private school.

Anonymous said...

It is true that Freshwater is an agent of the state; however, so is every President since the inception of America.

If you shut Freshwater up and deny him his free speech rights, does that mean you also are going to force Presidents to not talk about their faith?

What if a 13 year old hears the President talking about his Christian faith? It seems that liberals will want to force Presidents to give up their rights to free speech and freedom of religion in order to protect our youth.

Liberals are such hypocrites and dangerous. They are all about denying free speech rights as well as freedom of religion rights.

Anonymous said...

If you are against free speech, then you need to take your kids out of the public school system. The public schools have to follow the Constitution.

Freshwater has a right to free speech and the the state cannot Constitutionally take this right away from him!

Anonymous said...

Just wait until a Muslim teacher tells their views in a Public Middle School in Ohio. I am sure the "Christians" (that you speak of) won't be so happy then.

Anonymous said...

All Children have a right to not be indoctrinated at a public school. Neutrality in religion is what the school needs. This is a law. You are taking away the rights of a parent to teach their children how they see fit regarding religion, when you allow teachers to teach their religion.

Anonymous said...

You can not burn,mark, or leave any spots on children in a classroom. Period!

Anonymous said...

You don't even understand the constitution. Freedom of religion does not include teaching middle school children your beliefs! The courts will not rule in this teachers favor, it has been proven over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should familiarize yourself with the Dover PA case.
Buying all these transcripts must be costing you a fortune!!

Anonymous said...

The President doesn't hold a captive audience of 13 year olds daily, a teacher does.

Anonymous said...

Secularist teach there beliefs everyday! All beliefs are religious. We need freedom of religion and freeodm of speech in the classroom! The school should have a minimum that is required; however, the state should not be allowed to put tape over the mouths of teachers and take away their God given rights.

Anonymous said...

We need teachers of all religious faiths to be themselves. We should not force religious people to deny themselves to be who they are.

We should also have transparency for the parents so that parents can make a decision how they want their kid taught.

If you have a problem with freedom of speech and religion, then a parent should be given a voucher so that the atheist can send their kids to private schools.

If an institution gets public funding, they have to live by Constitution which guarantees these rights... Even for Muslims...

Anonymous said...

"You don't even understand the constitution. Freedom of religion does not include teaching middle school children your beliefs!"

The constitution does not limit freedom of speech or freedom of religion; only the liberals do. Christians believe in freedom of religion. Most of the founders were Christians and that is why they put it in there.

Liberals don't believe in freedom of speech or religion and that is why they force Christians to teach Secularism values...Hypocrites those liberals...

Anonymous said...

The guy speaking against Muslims is clearly a bigot. In order to shut the Muslims up, he is advising that we have should only teach the religious values held by Secularist.

Once again...Liberals don't believe in freedom of speech. Liberals are hypocrites who take away our freedoms to be ourselves.

As a Christian student, I was offended almost daily at the public school; however, that is the way free speech works. However, the Christians couldn't defend themselves and had tape over their mouths.

It was a direct violation of their rights and clearly Unconstitutional

Anonymous said...

I wish the government would follow the Constitution; however, it appears that they are violating the Constitution by taking away Freshwaters free speech rights.

It is a tragedy that the government violates its own law. If the government and the courts want to change the law and limit free speech, they should have to pass an amendment to the Constitution that puts limits on it.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see your definition of a Liberal. I would suspect it is anyone who doesn't believe what you believe.
There has to be a seperation of Church and State. If not we will be like almost all other countries. It is what sets us apart and makes us great!

Anonymous said...

Secularism has actually sent us down a hole. We have huge debt, high number of drop outs, high drug usage, high divorce rates, tons of broken homes, etc.. Secularism has actually destroy our country in the same way it destroyed Russia from the inside.

In order to get back on track, we have to go back to the Constitution which guarantees free speech for all. There are no limits on free speech in the Constitution.

Liberals are the ones who put limits on free speech and freedom of religion. It was not done through the courts; rather, they just proclaimed it law.

We have to get back to true free speech if our nation is to have a future.

Anonymous said...

"In order to get back on track, we have to go back to the Constitution which guarantees free speech for all. There are no limits on free speech in the Constitution"

If you want free speech for all why is this teacher suing multiple people for defamation ect.?

Anonymous said...

We should allow people to be authentic! I don't personally believe that we should sue people over the matter of defamation. I believe in free speech as guaranteed in the Constitution especially those who work in government.

Anonymous said...

If you think about it, the only reason that Freshwater is suing is because he has been denied his free speech rights. He is now trying to get others to tell the truth so he can keep his job.

When you depart from the Constitution, you end up with a huge mess. We need Free Speech and Freedom of Religion for our teachers!!

Anonymous said...

Those people he is suing have free speech too. Just because they say something he didn't like he shouldn't be able to sue.
I disagree. Teachers should not be allowed to preach in the classrooom. Then each year the students will be taught differently and that the previous teacher was wrong. Leave religious education up to the parents.

Anonymous said...

Religion is already in the schools. Secularist preach their values every day. We need freedom of religion rather than the establishment of the Secularist religion in the classroom.

All values are religious and the Secularist have their values for sure.

This is guaranteed in the Constitution and the schools are violating our rights as citizens.

Anonymous said...

You don't touch kids in school when you are a teacher!

Albatross said...

Absence of religious teaching is not religion. What an absurdity!

Anonymous who capitalizes secularist - why are you capitalizing this word? Do you think it lends support to your foolish position that not teaching religion equates to religion?

Secular values are common values. They are really simple things such as respect, courtesy, kindness, privacy, and religious liberty to name a few. These things threaten you - HOW?

Albatross said...

One point to all the "anonymous" posters who capitalize Secular - please remember the Constitution, the law of our land, and all the people in it, is a secular document. God, Jesus, Mohammed, or any other spokesperson for religion, is never mentioned. Not once! Why do you suppose that is?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Ms. Schutte should re-examine her own teaching methods and find ways to stimulate childrens minds to learn instead of blaming Mr Freshwater for their lack of interest in her teaching mehtods. I certainlly do not see getting children/people to think is a problem on any level. Laying a foundation and saying this is a starting point, this is what we believe to be true to the best of our knowledge, go learn, education. One of the biggest discoveries I made in college (and I graduated with honors) is simply how little I know and how much there is still to learn.
Praise God for his wonderful creation and beautiful mind is terrible thing to waste!

Anonymous said...

She does stimulate minds, she just doesn't indoctrinate them.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Regarding the discussion of secularism--

The United States Supreme Court, Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), said: “[T]he State may not establish a ‘religion of secularism’ in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus ‘preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.’ […] refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism, or at the least, as government support of the beliefs of those who think that religious exercises should be conducted only in private.”

Ronald Regan said, in a radio address, February 25, 1984 :“Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted if religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools, religion is placed at an artificial and state-created disadvantage. Permission for such exercises for those who want them is necessary if the schools are truly to be neutral in the matter of religion. And a refusal to permit them is seen not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

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