Monday, June 14, 2010

Former Assistant Principal Testifies about Photos of Freshwater’s Classroom and Lab

The following testimony took place 2:10 p.m.—2:46 p.m. on 6/07/10.

The pictures taken of John Freshwater’s classroom and lab focused on potentially religious items. “I could have taken more pictures, but I wasn’t asked to document everything in his classroom,” said Brad Ritchey, former Mount Vernon Middle School assistant principal.

Ritchey said areas he did not photograph “were not as concerning.”

Ritchey photographed the Bible on Freshwater’s desk, the poster of George Bush and Colin Powell, the Ten Commandment poster, a Cross Club sign, the “Good Thinking and Ten Commandment” book covers and several small posters in the lab area.

Ritchey was brought to the hearing as a rebuttal witness by school board attorney David Millstone.

An expert witness, Michael Molnar, previously testified that the items in Freshwater’s classroom were not part of a “religious display.”

Posters in lab area

There were 14 lab stations with two doors above each one—on the doors were posters about the size of oversized index cards.

Principal Bill White previously testified that there were verses written below the statements on the posters. “There were papers posted around on the cupboards that had what I would refer to as study skills or those types of things at the top,” White said, “and then at the bottom there was a biblical verse and reference that went with each one of them.”

Pictures were not taken of all of the lab stations.

Ritchey testified that, as best as he can recall, not all of the lab posters had Bible verses.

The only close-up photo that Ritchey took was of a poster that did have a Bible verse but, Ritchey said, he thought there was more than one poster like that.

Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, showed Ritchey a photo sent to Freshwater by the anonymous tipster.

In the photo—according to Freshwater’s previous testimony—is one of the posters Freshwater had in the lab area. In large print is the statement, "You can build a throne with bayonets but you can't sit on it for long." Below that in smaller print is, “‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.’ Confucius.”

(A photo provided by the anonymous tipster to Freshwater.)

Ritchey agreed that the poster in the photo might be the type of thing that was on the rest of the posters.

Freshwater previously testified that the original of the lab poster, as well as the other lab posters, has yet to be found. The posters were not located among the items discovered in the storage room at the school district’s central offices.

Ritchey said that he believes the items that were in Freshwater’s classroom were “unlawful.”

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Ritchey said that he was in a meeting with White and Freshwater regarding the student club Fellowship of Christian Athletes. According to Ritchey, Freshwater raised his hands during the meeting and told them that he might have done the same during FCA.

Ritchey said that Freshwater did not mention anything about having said “amen” so that the FCA students could go on to class.

(For Freshwater’s side of the story, see the section titled “Fellowship of Christian Athletes/Alleged exorcism” in the article “John Freshwater: Investigation Didn’t Follow Contract.” )

Ritchey did attend a few of the FCA meetings but did not see a problem with Freshwater’s handling of his role of monitor. He said that he never spoke with the pastor or the students that were at the meeting in which student Zachary Dennis said Freshwater raised his hands and prayed.

Tesla coil

Ritchey said that he and White did have the authority to write the January 22, 2008 letter to Freshwater regarding the Tesla coil.

During the meeting he was at with Freshwater, White did not direct Freshwater to destroy the Tesla coil, Ritchey said.

Ritchey also said had there been an allegation of a student’s arm being held down during the Tesla coil demonstration he would have remembered such a claim.

Ritchey said that he did not remember taking any notes of the meetings with Freshwater.

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