Cross-Branding Science Teacher Drops Lawsuit Without a Settlement

It’s been a while since I’ve written about John Freshwater, the middle school science teacher who was accused of burning crosses into his students’ arms and teaching Creationism.

Since his firing in 2008, he’s been on “unpaid administrative leave pending an appeal.”

On Thursday, though, Freshwater dropped his lawsuit.

Freshwater had sought $1 million in the 2009 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, arguing that his free speech and civil rights were violated. He also asked a judge to reinstate him to his position as an eight-grade teacher.

The document filed Thursday did not indicate whether a settlement had been reached.

The voice mail of Freshwater’s attorney was not accepting messages, and an e-mail was not immediately answered.

According to the Columbus Dispatch today, the school district didn’t offer him a settlement.

The suit is not ending because of a settlement, said attorney Sarah Moore, who represents the district in the civil case. “I can confirm there was no settlement, and we’re not expecting any.”

I can’t see how “burning a cross” into students’ arms could be misconstrued, but even if that was just some horrible misunderstanding, there’s no excuse for any competent science teacher to be teaching Creationism.

No one who does that ought to be working in a public school.

(via @antiheroine)

  • Heidi
  • Delphine

    I’m surprised he wasn’t charged with aggravated assault and child abuse among a number of things.

    I know if anyone did that to my children (not that I have any), I’d push for criminal prosecution.

  • http://pandasthumb.org RBH

    It’s worth noting that Sarah Moore, the Board of Education’s attorney in this case, put it even more strongly in comments to the AP:

    “We’re dumbfounded,” said Cleveland attorney Sarah Moore. “We can’t even begin to speculate as to what he’s trying to do.”

    She also said

    “There was no settlement offer to accept or reject. There was no money on the table for [Freshwater] to leave there. We were baffled when we received the e-mail from him and we can’t even begin to speculate why he is saying what he is saying.”

  • Nordog

    Why isn’t this guy in jail?

  • keystothekid

    I’m with Nordog…

  • Stephen P

    If you read Richard Hoppe’s coverage of this case on Panda’s Thumb (warning: only for those of you with lots of time) it seems that Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, is every bit as dubious a figure as Freshwater. It wouldn’t surprise me if the case has been dropped because Hamilton realised that if he pressed on he would be out of a job, as well as Freshwater.

  • Nordog

    I must admit, when I saw the headline for this posting I thought it was going to be something like Nike hooks up with Pepsi.

  • littlejohn

    The mind reels. What was his legal argument going to be? What lawyer agreed he had an argument?
    I’ve never struck anybody in my 56 years (I’m a large ex-weighlifter – nobody gives me any excuse to hit them).
    But if anybody did that to my kid, I’d have to re-think my pacifist philosophy.
    And I’m with Nordog, too. He’s clearly guilty of felony assault.

  • http://bestlittlestudio.com James

    Names your child Hitler and your children are taken away from you.

    Burn a cross into a students arm permanently branding him and disfiguring him for life and you try to sue the school board for 50k?

    WTF is wrong here, I just moved from Ohio back in March, they write you up for 1 mph over the limit, how is this trash still free?

  • Sean

    I also can’t imagine why this guy wasn’t charged with assault. I’d guess that it is difficult to prove precisely what happened, or that the families of the students involved simply didn’t want to press charges.

    Regardless, his lawsuit is insane. It’s unbelievable to me that people continue to assert a right to indoctrinate children into religious beliefs in public schools.

  • Iggy

    From the news clip in the above post, “He originally sought $500,000 in lost wages, pension pay and lost opportunity costs and $500,000 in punitive damages.”.

    I may not be a public middle school teacher, but I was under the assumption that (at least from the -constant- complaining) that they made less than a slick sleeve in the Army without the perks.

  • JaneL

    The reason that John Freshwater was not charged with assault is because the “burn” was a very, very, very light burn leaving a red mark on the skin like a light sunburn. Freshwater has been doing this science experiment for years yet nobody complained because there was nothing much to complain about. The boy whose parents did complain irritated the red marks on his skin when he wore hockey padding that rubbed against his skin. I’m not defending John Freshwater here, I believe he crossed the line many times with this experiment and his teachings.

  • muggle

    I’m with everyone else who’s outraged that he wasn’t charged with child abuse. This asshole should not be allowed anywhere near children.

    Seriously as much as I care about the church-state shit, the child abuse pisses me off even more and this would not go away if this were my child or grandchild. If the DA (or whoever it would be) refused to prosecute, I’d be taking it to the news, children’s rights organizations, and anyone else I could think of. He needs to be prosecuted for the child abuse before the statue of limitations runs out.

    James, I don’t know about Ohio but here in NY we had a case of horrible child abuse a few years ago and the kid’s name was Xtasy. All I could think is that might have been your first clue that mom might be an unfit mother. Of course, they can’t remove a kid from their parent just for that. But this kid had fractures, was burned with bleached and covered with cigarette burns and bruises and they were also accused of trying to sell her. Probably for some x-tasy.

  • http://www.coreymondello.com Corey Mondello

    I HOPE he gets an upside down cross burnt into his face..like a ‘scarlet letter’. Damn, where are the good old mobs that used to lynch people, throw people to lions, and cheer on public floggings when u need them…lol

  • Michael Elohim

    You people are so naive. The science teacher was doing a curricum-approved experiment that had been done for many years by many teachers for many years at many schools. Showing students that electrical currents could raise the hair on your arms in certain patterns such as a cross. Do you really think that he was branding kids but wasn’t arrested or sued for it in THIS sue-happy nation of ours? Please…

    He was fired for refusing to take the Bible off of his desk AFTER he complied and took the Bible off of the classroom bookshelf. This was the end of a long-standing internal power struggle.

    The ACLU sided with the school, saying to Hell with this guy’s free speech. The kids and the parents have consistently supported the teacher since it happened, which is evidence in his favor. Check your facts before taking sides.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    Michael Elohim wrote

    He was fired for refusing to take the Bible off of his desk AFTER he complied and took the Bible off of the classroom bookshelf.

    That’s no more than knee-deep horse manure. Read the resolution of intent to terminate passed by the Board of Education. A summary is here describing the four grounds cited in the resolution, and the resolution itself is here. (PDF). Count the number of times the resolution refers to a Bible on Freshwater’s desk. I’ll give you the answer: Zero times.

    Another bit of horse manure: The ACLU was not involved in the Freshwater affair at all. The Board President called an ACLU representative once to seek information, but did not follow up any further. That was ACLU’s sole involvement.

    And another bit of horse manure:

    The kids and the parents have consistently supported the teacher since it happened, which is evidence in his favor.

    Nope. In fact, I live in that community and my wife taught in that district for 35 years, and it’s very clear that public opinion has turned more and more against Mr. Freshwater over the last two years. Practically his sole support now comes from his home congregation and co-religionists. A non-trivial number of people, including Christians, have spoken out against his shenanigans. I suggest that you get the facts before you write.

  • Robert W.

    I read the resolution. It does state that one of the reasons was him bringing in religious items and displaying them. That could have included the Bible.

    It is clear from the resolution that at least some of the grounds were his religious views being expressed to his students.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    I read the resolution. It does state that one of the reasons was him bringing in religious items and displaying them. That could have included the Bible.

    That reference was not to his personal Bible on his desk, but to a second Bible and a religious book that he brought into his classroom after he’d been instructed to clear religious displays out of his room.

    And yes, some of the grounds were his expressions of religious views to students in the school during school hours. “Not on the government’s time, not on the government’s dime” didn’t seem to register with him. Teachers in public schools are agents of the state, and there are boundaries on their religious expressions when they are operating in their role as an agent of the state.

  • Jessica

    I once had a high school biology teacher who had a Darwin poster and a print of Michael Angelo’s Creation of Man on his wall. He taught both the theory of evolution and the biblical story of creationism (he even explained the feminist version of genesis with Lilith.)
    He never told us that any of them were right or wrong, and when we asked which one he himself believed, he refused to answer.

    I liked that teacher.


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