Saturday, April 04, 2009

John Freshwater Termination Hearing Day 18

Righting First Amendment Wrongs
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Healing session discussed at Freshwater hearing,” was the headline that spread across the front page of the April 3rd edition of the Mount Vernon News newspaper, published Friday afternoon. The article covered the events of John Freshwater’s contract termination hearing that took place on Thursday. I made a special trip to pick up Friday’s edition of the newspaper.

Except for this local newspaper article, I could not find very much coverage of the day’s events in this long, drawn out ‘trial.’ I could not find any account in the Columbus Dispatch, which had been covering much of the hearing.

This article is based almost exclusively on the Mount Vernon News account. According to reporter Pamela Schehl there were three witnesses on Thursday. The first was a pastor who, the second is a middle school health teacher, and the third an 8th grade social studies teacher.

STEPHEN ZIRKLE

Pastor Zirkle participated in several Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meetings. There was an allegation that Freshwater overstepped his bounds as a monitor of this extracurricular activity. Zirkle is also subject of an alleged “healing session” was held following the March 18, 2008 FCA meeting at the Mount Vernon Middle School, which was one of the allegations against Mr. Freshwater. Zirkle did not recall John Freshwater’s having any leadership role in that meeting or whether he had prayed along with the students. However, upon cross-examination by the school board’s attorney, David Millstone, he did concede that it was possible that Freshwater initiated the prayer for Pastor Zirkle.

My comment would be that even if Freshwater did suggest that a prayer be made on behalf of Pastor Zirkle, or even if he did pray for him, should he not have a right to exercise his religious liberty? Are teachers expected to check their 'religious' convictions or beliefs at the school house door and assume a completely godless, heretical secular humanistic core of beliefs? I don’t think so.

WESLEY ELIFRZ

Elifriz was a middle school health teacher who observed that Freshwater had a Bible on his desk. Elifriz admitted that he also had ‘religious articles’ in his room, up until very recently, that is.

The Mt. Vernon News article records this comment made by Elifriz, “he observed students calling “I love science” when they passed Freshwater’s room, and got the impression they both liked and respected him (Freshwater).”

It certainly seemed that Freshwater enjoyed teaching and his students enjoyed him and the subject he taught. It seems like the students were learning. Because Freshwater did not conform to the secular humanistic worldview of life as is apparently expected of state or government employees, does this make him the “enemy”? That certainly appears to me to be the case.

ANDREW THOMPSON

Thompson, according the Mount Vernon News article, was an eighth-grade social studies teacher at the middle school. Thompson had previously served as an intervention specialist. In the role of an intervention specialist he had several opportunities to accompany students to Freshwater’s science class. He is also a former student of Freshwater’s and regularly attended FCA meetings while a student and then as a teacher.

Thompson described Freshwater as a “dynamic teacher who is passionate about what he does.” The Mount Vernon News article report, “Thompson said he never heard Freshwater speak about religion in class and never heard him discuss intelligent design or creationism in class. He said Freshwater’s teaching methods got students engaged and excited about science.”

Furthermore the newspaper noted, “Thompson also compared the scores of Freshwater’s science students with other science students’ test results. Freshwater’s students scored higher, he said, and that data does not support the allegations that Freshwater’s students needed to be retaught in high school.”

Thompson testified that he questioned the HR On-Call Report and even went to the School Board with his concerns that the report was “inaccurate, incomplete and one-sided.”

Rom what I have observed, read and heard one of the two investigators testify, the HR On-Call report does seem to have been subjective, biased, and meant to provide the fodder for and to facilitate the firing of Mr. Freshwater.

THE HEARING CONTINUES . . .


The hearing was to have been held yesterday (Friday), however it had been cancelled on Thursday evening. Thursday, May 7th is the tentative date for the continuance of the hearing.

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