Thursday, May 7, 2009

Freshwater Hearing Updates

Levi Stickle at is posting updates about this week’s John Freshwater hearing.

This morning’s hearing began with the cross examination of Zachary Dennis. Stickle reports that Dennis is claiming the spark from the Tesla coil was four inches long. Stickle points out that “in the demonstration presented previously in the hearing the Tesla coil had to be less than one inch from ground (arm, trash can, ect.) before it would start to arc.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bring Your Bible to School Day

On the one-year anniversary of the order for teacher John Freshwater to remove the Bible from off his desk, a Facebook group is organizing a “bring your Bible to school day.”

(Principal William White sent a letter to John Freshwater on April 14 telling Freshwater he had to remove his Bible by April 16, 2008.)

The Facebook group “I Support John Freshwater” is promoting the event:

“April 16, 2009 marks one year since the Mount Vernon City School Board told middle school teacher John Freshwater to remove his personal Bible from his desk. we are asking students to take their Bible to school on April 16 in support of a teacher/student's right to have and carry one with them to school.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Strategy in the John Freshwater Case?

The following article relies upon details from the sworn affidavit of Melanie Dobson dated 2/26/09.

She was in town visiting family on December 29, 2008, when she stopped in at Sips—the local coffee shop in Mount Vernon, Ohio—to work on a book project. It was during that time that she overheard two men discussing the local controversy—the John Freshwater case, Melanie Dobson stated in a sworn affidavit.

Dobson’s father was with her and identified one of the men as Ian Watson, president of the city school board. In August, 2008, the school board voted to start the process of firing Freshwater, a middle school science teacher.

Dobson said the men were talking loudly. “It was my impression all of the people sitting in the dining area could hear the men talking,” Dobson said. “I heard the men speaking about the John Freshwater matter. It was clear to me then and my impression remains the men were talking strategy in relation as to how to win the John Freshwater case.”

The affidavit does not go into details at great length, but it does contain some of the phrases that Dobson remembers the two men using. “The man facing my direction spoke of a strategy to find ‘locals’ to ‘testify’ and ‘draw up support,’” Dobson said. “The men continued to speak about ‘bringing in’ an ‘expert’ and ‘professional’ to ‘testify’ about ‘theology’, ‘evolution’ and the ‘constitution.’”

Dobson said that she “was stunned the men were talking so loudly in a public place about the matter.”

Her father, Jim Beroth, was only at Sips long enough to take a photo of her while she worked on her book project. While he was there, Dobson said she asked him who the two men were and he identified one of the men as Watson. “The man my father identified as Ian Watson was the taller man who was quieter than the other man,” Dobson said. “My dad stated he did not know the man sitting with Ian Watson.”

Dobson said that the way the men were talking indicated that “they were more than concerned citizens as they used terms indicating to me the matter was more personalized such as ‘We need to do this..’”

Dobson, a resident of Oregon, has not appeared to testify at the Freshwater hearing, but the affidavit was supplied to the court and the attorney for the school board.

When R. Kelly Hamilton, attorney for Freshwater, submitted the affidavit to the court, the referee postponed making a decision on Dobson’s request that she not have to appear in person. Dobson stated in her affidavit that, “It would be a hardship upon me and my family if I had to travel to Ohio at this time. If the other attorneys wish to speak with me they can contact me.”

School board president Ian Watson did not respond to a request for comment.

Following the decision by the school board to start the firing proceedings against Freshwater, the attorney for the board, David Millstone, spoke to Mount Vernon News reporter Pamela Schehl about the process of making a final decision on the matter (“MV school board to fire Freshwater” August 26, 2008):

“If a referee is requested, Millstone said, the referee holds a hearing and makes a recommendation to the board and the board then acts on the recommendation: The board makes a decision (for or against termination) based on the evidence before it.”