MOUNT VERNON — The 5th Appellate District Court of Appeals has denied John Freshwater’s appeal of his termination by the Mount Vernon Board of Education.
The court, in essence, ruled there was sufficient legal grounds for the school board to fire Freshwater.
The case revolved around the school board’s decision to terminate Freshwater’s employment as an eighth-grade science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School. In June 2008, the board considered ending his employment contract for his failure to adhere to the established curriculum: The resolution stated that Freshwater taught creationism and intelligent design in his classes, which is not allowed by Ohio Academic Content Standards.
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As allowed by law, Freshwater requested an administrative hearing be held in an effort to save his job. The hearing, held before presiding referee R. Lee Shepherd, took nearly two years to complete, included approximately 350 exhibits that were admitted into evidence and 38 days of testimony from more than 80 witnesses which generated more than 6,000 pages of transcripts.
In January 2011, the school board formally resolved to terminate Freshwater’s employment contract for two main reasons: Injecting his own personal religious beliefs into his lessons plans and insubordination.
Freshwater appealed that decision to the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Otho Eyster in October 2011 ruled the board had “clear and convincing evidence of good and just cause” to fire Freshwater and ordered Freshwater to pay the costs of the appeal.
Freshwater then unsuccessfully petitioned the Fifth Appellate Court to overturn Eyster’s decision.
The Appellate Court refuted Freshwater’s contention that Eyster’s ruling demonstrated an “unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable attitude.” Instead, the appeals court found that “the referee’s memorandum provides a well-reasoned and articulated basis for affirming the decision of the Board and for the trial court to accept the recommendation of the referee.”
The Appellate Court rejected Freshwater’s claims regarding the insufficiency of evidence and the credibility of certain witnesses, stating that there was sufficient evidence to support both the findings of Shepherd and Eyster. The court further noted Freshwater has failed to demonstrate any due process violation and overruled Freshwater’s appeal and upheld Eyster’s judgment. It also ordered Freshwater to pay the costs of the appeal.