MOUNT VERNON — On Friday, attorneys for fired Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater — R. Kelly Hamilton and affiliate attorney Rita Dunaway with The Rutherford Institute — filed a merit brief with the Ohio Supreme Court asking that he be reinstated to his teaching position and be awarded monetary damages as a result of what the brief calls “his wrongful termination.”
The brief alleges that the school board’s decision to terminate John Freshwater’s teaching contract for “failure to adhere to the established curriculum” was invalid. It states, in part:
•“Freshwater’s teaching methods were good practices and were in accordance with the Board’s policies.”
•“Freshwater’s termination is a form of government censorship and a violation of the rights of academic freedom enjoyed by Freshwater and his students.”
•“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause does not justify, and in fact forbids, the Board’s actions.”
Outline of the events leading up to the latest filing, as previously reported in the News:
•In April 2008, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education authorized an independent firm to launch an investigation into Freshwater’s conduct and the materials he used in his eighth-grade science classroom.
•Based on the investigative findings, the board, in June 2008, passed a resolution of intent to consider the termination Freshwater’s teaching contract.
•Freshwater requested a hearing on the matter and, the board suspended him without pay but with medical insurance, beginnning the 2008-09 school year pending the outcome of the hearing.
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•In October 2008, the hearing conducted by an impartial referee was initiated.
•In 2009, Freshwater filed a $1 million civil suit with the United States District Court. In that suit, he basically said the school board and others conspired and discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs. That suit was dismissed with prejudice in October 2010.
•After 80 witnesses, 350 exhibits and nearly 6,000 pages of testimony, the contract termination hearing was officially closed in January 2011 and the referee recommended that Freshwater’s contract be terminated. The board did so that same month.
•In February 2011, Freshwater filed an appeal with the Knox County Court of Common Pleas and in October 2011 that appeal was denied by Judge Otho Eyster, who affirmed the board’s decision to fire Freshwater.
•Freshwater appealed to the Fifth Appellate District Court of Appeals, and in March 2012, that court upheld Eyster’s ruling on the matter.
According to the Ohio Supreme Court’s docket, no hearing before that body has been scheduled to date.