Saturday, June 21, 2008

Teaching creationism and burning crosses on the arms of students

Parents and teachers complained for eleven years about a middle school teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio who used his classroom to promote his religious beliefs. Only after an outside investigation reported that children had to be re-taught in high school what they were supposed to have learned in this teacher’s class and that he had burned crosses on many of their arms has the district school decided to act by dismissing the teacher.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

A Mount Vernon teacher undermined science instruction in the public school district by discrediting evolution in his classroom and focusing on creationism and intelligent design, an investigation has found.

Eighth-graders who were taught by John Freshwater frequently had to be re-taught in high school what they were supposed to have learned in Freshwater's class, according to outside investigators hired by the district.

For 11 years, other teachers in the school district and people in the community complained about Freshwater preaching his Christian beliefs in class and slamming scientific theories, a school administrator told investigators.

"There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwater's teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and state standards," the consultants reported.

Freshwater was told to stop teaching intelligent design and creationism, but he continued, the report found.

HR on Call Inc., the consultants who investigated allegations against Freshwater, released their findings yesterday. Mount Vernon school board members will meet today to discuss the report and decide what, if any, action they will take.

The report confirmed that Freshwater burned crosses onto students' arms, using an electrostatic device, in December.

Freshwater told investigators the marks were X's, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student's arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.

The family of one student who was burned filed a federal lawsuit last week against Freshwater and the district, saying the student's civil rights were violated.

Yesterday, the family's attorney, Jessica Philemond, said it was "unfortunate" that the school district didn't do anything sooner to stop Freshwater.

"These concerns had been going on for at least 11 years, and the school had not done anything," she said.

A teacher who worked in Freshwater's classroom last year also reported to investigators that Freshwater told his class that homosexuality is a sin.

If homosexuality is a sin then what is branding 12 and 13-year-old kids with crosses? Fortunately, the school board has taken a dim view of this teacher's antics and fired him.

You can read the story here and and follow-up story here. Comments from Obsidian Wings can be found here and at The Plank here.

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