MOUNT VERNON — The Supreme Court of Ohio has agreed to hear John Freshwater’s appeal of his contract termination by the Mount Vernon City schools, according to information posted on the court’s website on Thursday.
The school board fired Freshwater from his job as a middle school science teacher in January 2011 after an independent investigation and subsequent administrative hearing determined he improperly injected his personal religious beliefs into his classroom teaching and was insubordinate in refusing to obey orders to remove religious materials from his classroom.
Freshwater then appealed to the Knox County Court of Common Pleas, which, in October 2011 upheld the board’s decision and denied the appeal, as did the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals in March 2012.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal on the basis of two propositions of law submitted by Freshwater:
•No. 1 — “The termination of a public school teacher’s employment contract based on the teacher’s use of academic freedom where the school board has not provided any clear indication as the kinds of materials or teaching methods which are unacceptable cannot be legally justified, as it constitutes an impermissible violation of the rights of the teacher and his students to free speech and academic freedom the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and a manifestation of hostility toward religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
•No. 2 — “The termination of a public school teacher’s employment contract based on the mere [presence of religious texts from the school’s library and/or the display of a patriotic poster cannot be legally justified, as it constitutes and impermissible violation of the rights of a teacher and his students to free speech and academic freedom under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and a manifestation of hostility toward religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
The Supreme Court will not hear the proposition which claims Freshwater was fired for publicly expressing his personal religious beliefs.
A hearing date has not yet been set, but the Court of Appeals for Knox County has 20 days to certify the case record and to submit material, including transcripts, exhibits and journal entries, relevant to the appeal.
Messages left at the Freshwater residence requesting comment were not returned as of press time.