MOUNT VERNON — A firm date remains elusive as to when the John Freshwater contract termination hearing will officially be concluded. Hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd told the News on Monday that within the last week to 10 days additional written materials have been submitted by both the school board attorney David Millstone and Freshwater’s lawyer Kelly Hamilton.
“Attorney Millstone,” Shepherd said, “found a case that he felt was relevant, that had just been decided in the Sixth District of the federal courts, which is the one that controls our part of Ohio. He sent that to me with a cover letter. Of course, he had sent a copy of it to Attorney Hamilton. Attorney Hamilton then asked for an opportunity to reply. I just got that reply last week. On Friday afternoon I read both of those [submissions] so I’m now back up to date again with all of my reading materials.”
Shepherd said he has set a personal goal of reaching a decision by the end of this year, but added it is difficult to judge those timelines when new materials keep being submitted.
“In their [Millstone and Hamilton] defense,” said Shepherd, “they did feel this was an important case, and I understand why after reading it. I’m hopeful that that’s the last of the written materials that they will be sending. But again, they’re not prohibited. If they feel there is something that is germane, certainly they can send it.”
The case to which Shepherd referred was decided by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Oct. 21. It considered: Does a public high school teacher have a First (and 14th) Amendment right “to select books and methods of instruction for use in the classroom without interference form public officials?”
According to the court document, the panel of judges affirmed the board of education’s ruling that the First Amendment does not apply to a teacher’s “official duties.”