COLUMBUS — Nearly two years ago, on June 13, 2008, the Stephen Dennis family of Mount Vernon filed a civil lawsuit with the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. The federal suit alleged civil rights violations by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, the superintendent and middle school principal, and currently suspended middle school science teacher John Freshwater.



Joshua Morrison: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @


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17 Responses to “Court rules on Freshwater civil suit”

  1. Sam Stickle


    Judge Gregory Frost had this to say about the use of the Tesla coil (4-06-10):

    “Freshwater had been applying the Tesla coil to his student’s arms for approximately 21 years, with not one reported injury. Over 600 students, in Freshwater’s classes alone, had the Tesla coil applied to their arms without incident. Moreover, two other science teachers engaged in the same Tesla coil experiment with their students, one for over 20 years. These teachers too never had a reported injury resulting from the experiment.”

    Judge Frost wrote, in describing the background to the federal case, that (4-6-10):

    “On December 7, 2007, the day after the incident, ZD’s parents met with the Superintendent of the Mount Vernon School District, Stephen Short. They indicated to Superintendent Short that they wanted an investigation of the Tesla coil incident, but were adamant that they did not want Freshwater legally prosecuted or terminated. ZD’s parents stressed that their goal was to prevent Freshwater from demonstrating the effects of the Tesla coil on any other students.‚Äù

    Interestingly, the Dennis family got everything for which they initially asked. The school instructed Freshwater to not allow any further students to touch the spark from the Tesla coil.

  2. Sam Stickle

    It is only an allegation that Freshwater taught creationism or referenced the Bible during class. Freshwater testified that he did not teach creationism or intelligent design.

    Freshwater excelled as an eighth grade science teacher. According to Judge Gregory Frost (12-08-09):

    “During the 2007-2008 school year, Freshwater’s students, as a group, earned the highest proficiency scores on the standardized Ohio Achievement Tests when comparing Freshwater’s students’ scores to all of the other eighth grade groups taught by any other teacher employed by the Board of Education. Freshwater was the only Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher who achieved a ‘passing’ score on the Ohio Achievement Test despite Freshwater having the most students with individualized education plans. Eighty-nine percent of Freshwater‚Äôs students achieved a passing score on the topic of ‘Evolutionary Theory,’ a topic within the ‘Life Science’ curriculum.”

  3. Manti

    Dude. Get over yourself. Christianity is the only majority that’s ever whined about being persecuted. GROW UP. NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES YOUR WAY AND THAT DOESN’T MAKE THEM BAD PEOPLE!!

  4. hazeleyes

    Go ahead and mock me! I really don’t care. You are the same kind of people that persecuted Christ right before he was crucified! Only difference is, you CAN’T DO THAT TO ME! NOT FOR HAVING AN OPINION! MY RIGHTS!

  5. Miriam St Jean

    There’s an article in the Columbus Dispatch about another recent ruling that went against “team freshwater” – the ensuing comments are quite telling about how this whole affair (and the people in this community) are being perceived by others…….

    “right wing god hounds”

    “gun toting militia inspired rhetoric”

    somewhat on point. embarrassing, too.

  6. michael

    protect him from what? i hope he stays safe—at home!!!!

  7. michael

    because god has NO place in school. if he is part of your life, great. if he is part of 78% of students lives, great. but it is not the schools job to sponsor your christianity. school is to learn information to prepare you for life – and not your religious life. let parents teach religion. let churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, support religion. oh, there is more than christianity?! keep schools neutral. keep schools a safe place for learning. keep religion to yourself.

  8. michael

    what do you mean you “believe he is innocent”? what you actually mean is you condone keeping religion in the schools. i am part of the lynch mob because he has proven year after year that he does not follow the guidelines for teaching in a public school. i am a catholic but i am a strong believer of keeping your religion to yourself. we have seen throughout history what happens when that doesn’t occur.

  9. CincyGirl

    Every time I visit my home here, I pick up the newspaper and read about this Freshwater thing. The miracle of our Constitution is that it’s not vague…very clear and concise. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Read my lips…SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE! A public school teacher advocating Christianity in a state-supported institution is illegal. I’m a devout Christian, but I’m not an idiot when it comes to law!

  10. Buffyjoi

    Ummmm, hazeleyes….I don’t know how to break it to you, but read the article again, very carefully. Both of Freshwater’s requests for Summary Judgment were denied. In other words, the court has ruled that there was no way in hades he was going to win on the merits of either of his motions. On the other hand, the Dennis family will be permitted to present their case to a jury. It’s not good for Mr. Freshwater.

    As far as the people in this county making up their minds about his guilt….an independent investigation has already ruled on that and how Mr. Freshwater escaped a criminal charge of assault and battery, I don’t know. This court will rule on the Establishment Clause violations.

    As far as God protecting him…from what??? The consequences of his actions? There are a lot of very good Christian and non-Christian people who do NOT support Mr. Freshwater and who believe that his self-serving pursuit of this legal action is harming the district. If he really wants to get on with his life, he needs to find a job and get over it. He will never hold a teaching job in an Ohio public school again, so I’d advise him to find a job in a parochial school someplace where they appreciate his narrow-minded interpretation of Genesis. Mr. Freshwater is not standing up for his beliefs – he is standing up for HIMSELF and he is costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  11. FSM_Ed

    “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

  12. FSM_Ed

    I am glad that Mr Freshwater will have his day in Court in a different County! Some People in this County have already made up their minds he is guilty. I believe he is innocent! It seems like there is a lynch mob waiting to string him up! I believe Thor will protect him!

  13. FSM_Ed

    That is what is wrong with our society today. They have taken Poseidon out of school. I know Poseidon can protect them. There should be more people who stand up for our belief’s

  14. Carolyn

    That is what is wrong with our society today. They have taken God out of school. I know our God can protect them. There should be more people who stand up for our belief’s.

  15. hazeleyes

    I am glad that Mr Freshwater will have his day in Court in a different County! Some People in this County have already made up their minds he is guilty. I believe he is innocent! It seems like there is a lynch mob waiting to string him up! I believe God will protect him!