MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) – A public school teacher preached his Christian beliefs despite complaints by other teachers and administrators and used a device to burn the image of a cross on students’ arms, according to a report by independent investigators.
Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater also taught creationism in his science class and was insubordinate in failing to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom, the report said.
School board members were scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to discuss the findings by consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc., hired by the district to investigate. The report was released Thursday.
School Superintendent Stephen Short wouldn’t comment on the report before Friday’s meeting, his office said. A message seeking comment was left for Freshwater’s attorney, Roger Weaver.
The report comes one week after a family filed a federal lawsuit in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child’s arm that remained for three or four weeks.
Freshwater’s friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.
“With the exception of the cross-burning episode … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,” he told The Columbus Dispatch in a story published Friday.
Several students interviewed by investigators described Freshwater, who has been employed by the school district for 21 years, as a great guy.
But Lynda Weston, the district’s director of teaching and learning, told investigators that she has dealt with complaints about Freshwater for much of her 11-year term at the district, the report said.
A former superintendent, Jeff Maley, said he tried to find another position for Freshwater but couldn’t because Freshwater was certified only in science, the report said.
Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students’ arms in December, the report said. Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an “X,” not a cross. But pictures show the images depict a cross, the report said.
Other findings show that Freshwater taught that carbon dating was unreliable to argue against evolution.