MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Board of Education has resolved a federal lawsuit filed by a family that alleged a civil rights violation. The family alleged that middle school science teacher John Freshwater displayed religious materials and taught religion, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and school policy.
The school board, Superintendent Steve Short and middle school principal William White were named in the case because they allegedly allowed Freshwater to continue to teach religion after being notified of the policy violations and unconstitutional activities.
According to the settlement agreement, which has not yet been approved by the court, the board’s insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals.
The school board also agreed to:
•Prohibit staff from discussing the John Freshwater case with or in the presence of students during the school day and at school activities.
•Provide training to board members and administrators concerning religion and the school, and provide training to teachers on the same topic.
This training was done on Aug. 18. Additional training will also be provided on the First Amendment, religion and public education.
•Make a public statement at the conclusion of the Freshwater administrative hearing.
The settlement agreement, which does not apply to co-defendant Freshwater, must be filed with the Probate Court of Knox County.
A motion for dismissal will then be filed with the federal district court.
A source close to the family told the News this morning they are planning to move out of Mount Vernon.