MOUNT VERNON — Zach Dennis was the first witness called by attorney Kelly Hamilton when the contract termination hearing for suspended Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater resumed Thursday. Dennis allegedly was injured by Freshwater during a science experiment.
Hamilton had Dennis draw a detailed diagram of Freshwater’s science classroom, including a floor plan, location of furniture and seating chart. Hamilton also asked some questions related to room size and the distance between students’ desks and Freshwater’s desk.
In a discussion about the experiment with the high frequency generator, Dennis said he volunteered for the experiment, then drew a picture of the marks left on his arm and described the mark on another student’s arm as “like the picture of my arm.”
Dennis reported that when the arc from the device first touched his arm he felt “a burning sensation which felt like a static electricity shock, but stronger.” He also said the arc left “tiny welt things” on his arm which turned red before the end of the class period.
Using a volunteer from the gallery, Hamilton had Dennis simulate how the device was used, specifically how his arm and Freshwater’s were positioned, and the motions used to create the mark on his arm.
Asked what he has learned about a Tesla Coil since the December 2007 incident, Dennis said he learned the voltage is the same as a TASER, and that it burns paper, is used for lighting up gases and that there are some safety issues about it.
Hamilton asked Dennis whether he had seen a doctor concerning the injury; Dennis said no. He also said he could not recall taking any pain medications.
When Hamilton asked about the photos of the alleged injury, Dennis said his mother had taken some before he went to hockey practice, and his father took some on his cell phone after hockey practice. Dennis also displayed the mole on his arm which matches the mole in the photographs, and identified the blanket in his bedroom and the sink in his parents’ bathroom, which appear in the background in the photos, respectively.
Through point-by-point queries by Hamilton, Dennis confirmed what he told the independent investigators about the injury, his experiences as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Freshwater’s references to religion in class.
Dennis also testified that Freshwater referred students to the Answers in Genesis Web site during class, participated in what has been called a healing session during an FCA meeting, and violated the permission slip policy. Dennis said he has firsthand knowledge of those allegations.
Stephen Dennis, Zach Dennis’ father, was briefly on the stand before the hearing adjourned for the day. He said he was shocked to see the red mark in the shape of a “large cross” on his son’s arm. He characterized the marks as raised and blistering, and said he did not believe the injury was aggravated by Zach’s hockey pads.
The testimony of Stephen Dennis is expected to continue when the hearing resumes today.