Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Freshwater case could go to U.S. Supreme Court

Bob Kellogg, OneNewsNow, reports that John Freshwater’s case could go to the U.S Supreme Court.

Kellogg quotes John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, as saying:

"I think this is a case, depending on how the Ohio Supreme Court rules, that could trickle up to the [U.S.] Supreme Court, and there's a possibility the Supreme Court might look at this case depending on the issues," the attorney notes. "So, this may set national precedent."

Read the full article: “Freshwater's case could set national precedent.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

Press release: Ohio Supreme Court agrees to hear Rutherford Institute’s case of science teacher fired for urging students to think critically about evolution

The following press release was provided Friday by The Rutherford Institute:

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio— The Ohio Supreme Court has granted The Rutherford Institute’s appeal to hear the case of John Freshwater, a Christian teacher who was fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school’s science curriculum, particularly as it relates to evolution theories. Freshwater, a 24-year veteran in the classroom, was suspended by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in 2008 and officially terminated in January 2011. The School Board justified its actions by accusing Freshwater of improperly injecting religion into the classroom by giving students “reason to doubt the accuracy and/or veracity of scientists, science textbooks and/or science in general.” The Board also claimed that Freshwater failed to remove “all religious articles” from his classroom, including a Bible.

The Rutherford Institute’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court is available here.

“Academic freedom was once the bedrock of American education. That is no longer the state of affairs, as this case makes clear,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don’t need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

In June 2008, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education voted to suspend John Freshwater, a Christian with a 20-year teaching career at Mount Vernon Middle School, citing concerns about his conduct and teaching materials, particularly as they related to the teaching of evolution. Earlier that year, school officials reportedly ordered Freshwater, who had served as the faculty appointed facilitator, monitor, and supervisor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes student group for 16 of the 20 years that he taught at Mount Vernon, to remove “all religious items” from his classroom, including a Ten Commandments poster displayed on the door of his classroom, posters with Bible verses, and his personal Bible which he kept on his desk. Freshwater agreed to remove all items except for his Bible. Showing their support for Freshwater, students even organized a rally in his honor. They also wore t-shirts with crosses painted on them to school and carried Bibles to class. School officials were seemingly unswayed by the outpouring of support for Freshwater.

In fact, despite the fact that the Board’s own policy states that because religious traditions vary in their treatment of science, teachers should give unbiased instruction so that students may evaluate it “in accordance with their own religious tenets,” school officials suspended and eventually fired Freshwater, allegedly for criticizing evolution and using unapproved materials to facilitate classroom discussion of origins of life theories. Freshwater appealed the termination in state court, asserting that the school’s actions violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and constituted hostility toward religion. A Common Pleas judge upheld the School Board’s decision, as did the Fifth District Court of Appeals, without analyzing these constitutional claims. In appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court, Institute attorneys argued that the Board through its actions violated the First Amendment academic freedom rights of both Freshwater and his students.

Additional information:

“Ohio Supreme Court to hear Freshwater appeal” by Pamela Schehl, Mount Vernon News

“Ohio court to hear appeal of teacher in Bible case” by By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Associated Press

John Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, case information and documents, Supreme Court of Ohio

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Barone to not seek re-election

Mount Vernon Board of Education member Paula Barone has announced that she does not plan to seek re-election to the board.

The announcement came in a May 10 email sent to members of the board.

Barone is one of three remaining board members who voted for the controversial firing of teacher John Freshwater.

In her recent email, Barone cited health problems of her daughter as causing her to “re-prioritize my time and energy.”

Although she is going to serve out the rest of her term, she asked board members to consider re-assigning some of her responsibilities to other board members.

One of the responsibilities that she asked be transferred to someone else was her role as an appointed member of the Knox County Career Center Board of Education.

The Mount Vernon News reports that at the May 16 meeting of the KCCC board, Steve Thompson was sworn in to replace Barone.

See here for a copy of Barone’s May 10 email.