Wednesday, October 5, 2011

County judge rules against Freshwater’s appeal

Knox County Court of Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster ruled today against John Freshwater’s appeal of his firing by the Mount Vernon Board of Education.

Eyster did not cite any evidence or applicable law in support of his decision. Instead, Eyster simply wrote in his decision that he “considered the applicable law” and that he found “clear and convincing evidence to support” the teacher’s firing for “good and just cause.”

(See here for a copy of the decision. 320KB PDF)

Due to Eyster’s failure to provide specifics in his decision, the judge has left unchallenged the school’s action of ordering Freshwater to remove his personal Bible from off his classroom desk.

In the school board’s resolution firing Freshwater, the board had stated that the teacher’s refusal to remove the Bible* and, additionally, bringing into the classroom two religious books from the school’s library constituted “good and just cause” for firing him.

The board, based on the report by hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd, had provided a total of ten reasons for the firing.

Freshwater challenged those reasons in his appeal and requested that he be able to present additional information to the court, saying, “additional information has become available since the close of the hearing conducted by the referee, the information of which was not previously made available despite efforts to obtain.”

Eyster’s ruling came without the admission of additional evidence from Freshwater. Eyster explained that he was not allowing additional days of hearings because of the “number of witnesses and exhibits presented” already during the state administrative hearing.

As reported by in June, at least one of the ten reasons the board gave for firing Freshwater was based solely on the testimony of a witness who, according to school records obtained through a public records request, was not present in the classroom during the time period he claimed to be.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Freshwater has 30 days to appeal Eyster’s decision.

*Note: The board’s resolution on this point is vaguely worded and is open to interpretation. Freshwater’s appeal to 5th District Court of Appeals in Ohio interprets it as being a reference to the Colin Powell/George W. Bush poster. See the article “Freshwater appeals to 5th District Court.”

Related documents:

Closing arguments from the state administrative hearing

Freshwater’s appeal (3.25 MB PDF)

Previous articles mentioning Eyster:

“Case ‘closed’ without trial, without verdict”

“John Freshwater Files Writ of Mandamus with Supreme Court of Ohio”

See the articles in the archive for additional coverage of the Freshwater controversy.

UPDATE 10/6/2011:

The Rutherford Institute has announced that it plans to appeal to the 5th District Court of Appeals in Ohio on behalf of Freshwater.

UPDATE 10/7/2011:

Christian Post reporter Alex Murashko has written an article about Eyster’s decision and Freshwater’s plans to appeal: “Fired Christian Teacher: ‘I Teach All Aspects of Evolution.’”

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