Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ohio Department of Education tries to revive Tesla coil issue

The Ohio Department of Education sent a “Letter of Admonishment” to John Freshwater that claims Freshwater “engaged in conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession.” The only issue raised in the letter is the previously adjudicated issue involving the Tesla coil.

Without citing any evidence or sources, the ODE asserted that Freshwater’s use of the Tesla coil “resulted in an injury to a student.”

The referee who oversaw Freshwater’s state administrative hearing, R. Lee Shepherd, stated about the allegation of a student being injured:

“Due to the sensational and provocative nature of this specified ground, it and the facts and circumstances surrounding it became the focus of the curious, including those in the video, audio, and print media. Once sworn testimony was presented, it [became] obvious that speculation and imagination had pushed reality aside.”

As previously reported by KnoxPages editor Adam Taylor, Freshwater’s attorney R. Kelly Hamilton has sent a response to the ODE demanding that the letter be rescinded.

“Freshwater herein demands,” the response states, “the Ohio Department of Education’s letter of Admonishment be immediately rescinded as the allegations relied upon in the letter are false, erroneous, defamatory and unwarranted and subject to legal action.”

Hamilton cited ODE own rules which bar the department from issuing the admonishment due to the matter having been already resolved.

Hamilton further requested, if the letter is not rescinded, that an investigation be opened immediately into the conduct of Mount Vernon City Schools superintendent Steve Short and middle school principal Bill White.

Short and White did not report the alleged injury to Children Services. Hamilton said Short and White failed to comply with Ohio’s mandatory reporting requirement.

Hamilton also requested that the ODE investigate the other teachers who also allowed students to touch the spark from the Tesla coil:

“The essence of the Ohio Department of Education’s Letter of Admonishment is that educators should be disciplined for an alleged, now known to be false accusation of harm, despite having followed on-the-job-training procedures and making use of a Tesla coil in the exact same manner as colleagues with a pattern of conduct that had proven reliable and safe for over 20 years.”

Related documents:

Letter of Admonishment, dated March 22, 2011. 1 MB PDF.

Response to Letter of Admonishment, dated April 20, 2011. 766 KB PDF.

UPDATE: 5-23-2011:

The Mount Vernon News reported Friday that Stephen and Jenifer Dennis, through their attorney, submitted a request to the ODE asking that the letter of reprimand remain in Freshwater’s file and that Freshwater's teaching license be revoked.

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