MOUNT VERNON — The defense rested its case to conclude Friday’s session of the contract termination hearing for suspended Mount Vernon middle school teacher John Freshwater.
Freshwater, who has been testifying for about 2 1/2 days, categorically denied all of the allegations brought against him by the board of education. He said, in effect, that the board’s decision to terminate his contract was based on incomplete, misleading, inaccurate and/or intentionally false information.
Referring frequently to Ohio Academic Content Standards for eighth-grade science and proper scientific method, Freshwater explained why he used certain materials mentioned in the investigative report — for example, a worksheet about the peppered moth. He said such materials were used to illustrate bias, and as examples of what was not good scientific method.
Freshwater said he did use the word “here” in classes when certain topics would arise in class.
“It’s to help students get a better understanding of abstract and concrete thinking,” he said.
He said some students would raise questions — about the age of the earth, for example — and “here” would be used to acknowledge the student’s query and move forward with the lesson. “Here” would indicate there was no eyewitness to the event, and that it is an abstract rather than a concrete scientific concept.
“Did you ever use the word ‘here’ to challenge what is in the textbook or to indicate that Biblical principles contradict the science?” asked Freshwater’s lawyer, Kelly Hamilton.
“Absolutely not,” replied Freshwater.
Hamilton also led Freshwater in a painstaking, comprehensive review of his performance evaluations dating from the 1990s. All were positive evaluations.
Alluding to some individuals’ alleged perception that Freshwater used his position as a teacher to promote particular religious beliefs and denigrate others, Hamilton asked a series of questions, including, “Do you have anything against Catholics?,” “Does having a Bible on your desk make you a Christian?” and “Did you ever refer to a higher being in science class?”
Freshwater replied “no” to all of those questions. He concluded his testimony by again saying the investigation by HR on Call was not complete and not neutral, and repeated his assertion that he “absolutely never taught creationism or intelligent design.”
In response to a question from Hamilton, Freshwater said one “can’t believe [a certain student] on anything.”
Freshwater also said he would have no problem returning to the classroom in Mount Vernon middle school and just picking up where he left off. He said he would not be a disgruntled employee in that situation.
“This hasn’t been easy for you or your family, has it?” asked Hamilton.
“No, it has not,” Freshwater said. “It has been hard on my family.”
It is expected that Freshwater’s cross-examination by school board attorney David Millstone will begin when the hearing resumes at 9 a.m. on Dec. 29.