COLUMBUS, OHIO — The school board of a small central Ohio community voted unanimously Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.
School board members voted 5 to 0 to fire Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater.
Freshwater denies wrongdoing and will request a hearing challenging his dismissal, his attorney told the Mount Vernon News.
A family has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying the teacher burned a cross on a child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.
Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him to the Columbus Dispatch: "With the exception of the cross-burning episode . . . I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district."
Several students interviewed by investigators on behalf of the school board described Freshwater, who has been employed by the district for 21 years, as a great guy and their favorite teacher.
But Lynda Weston, the district's director of teaching and learning, told investigators she had dealt with complaints about Freshwater throughout her 11 years at the district.
A former superintendent, Jeff Maley, said that he had tried to find another position for Freshwater but couldn't because he was certified only in science, the investigators' report said.
Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn the image of a cross on students' arms in December, the report said. Freshwater told investigators he was simply demonstrating the device on several students and described the image as an "X," not a cross. But pictures showed a cross, the report said.