MOUNT VERNON — Seven more students testified Friday in the contract termination hearing for suspended Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater. They attended Freshwater’s eighth-period, eighth-grade science class during the 2007-08 school year.
Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s lawyer, asked each student whether he or she had seen a certain video purported to refute evolutionary theory, attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, and/or whether he or she was present in class during the Tesla coil experiment in December 2007. He also asked the students if they had seen a Bible on Freshwater’s desk, inquired as to their opinion of Freshwater as a teacher and asked if what they learned in his class helped them in ninth and 10th grades.
The teens said they didn’t notice a Bible on the desk, at least up until the controversy started, did not recall any case in which Freshwater referred to the Bible in class and did not remember Freshwater ever talking about intelligent design or creationism in class. They agreed that Freshwater was a “cool” teacher whose lessons helped them in higher grades.
Regarding the Tesla coil, the students said they did not see Freshwater hold anyone’s arm down as the device was applied to students’ arms. The also reported they heard no one complain or cry out in pain due to the experience.
When demonstrating how he used the Tesla coil with students, in testimony in December 2009, Freshwater was asked whether he could see if he was leaving marks. He said he was making a movement of an “X” but not trying to make a mark on their arms.
“You can’t see anything,” he added. “It doesn’t leave a mark on them.”
On Friday, four of the students contradicted that testimony. One said Freshwater told the class the mark would go away in an hour or so.
Another said she saw a mark on Zach’s [Dennis] arm, saying, “It looked like a cross or a T.”
A third student, who volunteered for the experiment, said, “It didn’t hurt or anything. It just felt weird because of the static. It left a tiny mark on me. It lasted two or three minutes, then went away.
Another student also participated in the experiment. He said he felt no discomfort, and added, “Mr. Freshwater said it would be a temporary mark. He went down [the forearm], then across.”
Upon cross-examination by the school board’s attorney, David Millstone, the students also contradicted Freshwater’s testimony that he did not have students fill out a science student data survey or ask them if religion was important to them.
Hearing referee Lee Shepherd said the hearing will resume on Wednesday, June 2. Additional potential dates include June 3, 4, 7 and 8.