Freshwater: ODE Admonishment Withdrawn

| 17 Comments

A while back I noted that the Ohio Department of Education had sent John Freshwater a letter of admonishment concerning his use of a Tesla coil in his middle school science classroom. Freshwater objected, and the Rutherford Institute joined his defense.

Now the Rutherford Institute has posted a press release announcing that the letter of admonishment has been removed from Freshwater’s record by the Ohio DOE. Apparently it’s to ascertain whether ODE’s procedures were followed in issuing the admonishment. From the press release:

In its letter, the ODE stated that it is investigating The Rutherford Institute’s charges that the admonishment against Freshwater was issued in defiance of Freshwater’s due process rights and in violation of the Department’s own rules. Institute attorneys insist that the ODE’s issuance of the admonishment violated Freshwater’s due process rights because the teacher was not given proper notice or an opportunity to defend himself against the charges.

I’m also informed that a new 5-year professional teaching license to teach high school, for which Freshwater had applied early this year, was issued by the Ohio DOE on April 8, 2011. So the Department of Education has apparently taken a complete pass on any disciplinary action concerning Freshwater.

17 Comments

That is disappointing.

Is there any reason to think that the Rutherford Institute may be exaggerating the DOE’s actions? It wouldn’t be the first time a pro-creationist legal firm played Baghdad Bob. Or do you think their announcement is on the level here?

This statement from ODE was just forwarded to me:

The current situation means Mr. Freshwater currently has no disciplinary actions and this matter is under further consideration by ODE. Beyond this, we don’t have any further public information which we can release.

So the letter of admonishment has been withdrawn at least temporarily, but there may be action after the “further consideration.”

I just looked up the Rutherford Institute’s web site. There is some amazing stuff there – its leader, John Whitehead has a Commentary up here promoting the notion that there is widespread ritual abuse of children with the CIA involved. This is a long-discredited conspiracy theory. His commentary dates to 2005 (and largely consists of quotes from a 1992 speech by someone else) but he still makes it available on his web site. One wonders what conspiracies he thinks are at work in against Freshwater.

Oops, that should have been “are at work against Freshwater”.

Isn’t the Ohio BOE about as conservative as the Texas BOE. IF so, then this action on their behalf is understandable.

The ODE is either complicit or spineless. They should be ashamed.

Any creationist who isn’t trying to game the system is a physically dead creationist. Brain dead they already were.

Mike Elzinga said:

Any creationist who isn’t trying to game the system is a physically dead creationist. Brain dead they already were.

May I mildly object? If you mean “active creationist debater” there is a lot of validity to what you say. If you mean “creationist” then you’ve just accused 25-50% of the population of the U.S. of “trying to game the system” and being “brain dead”.

Of course many of these people honestly believe what they say and are convinced that they are trying hard to be honest and honorable. There are potential ways to reach (some of) them by pointing out the dishonesties of the major creationist debaters. But not if you do it by saying things like that. I am assuming you spoke imprecisely,

Joe Felsenstein said:

May I mildly object? If you mean “active creationist debater” there is a lot of validity to what you say. If you mean “creationist” then you’ve just accused 25-50% of the population of the U.S. of “trying to game the system” and being “brain dead”.

Indeed, you may object.

And yes, the implication was “active creationist debater,” since it is primarily they who do, in fact, try to game the system. They seem to exist in many communities; and even when forcefully rebutted, they simply go into stealth mode for a while. I have been expecting a couple of them to pop up again around here. It’s “in the air” again.

And no, I don’t think that most of the innocent “supporters” I have met personally are generally of this nature. Some attended talks I gave in the past. They are nice people who simply don’t have enough background knowledge to know who to believe; but they are willing to learn.

Rather disappointed but not surprised. This is a dance and I believe ODE is doing its due diligence in the matter. The “bad-boy” letter wasn’t enough to prevent him from getting his license renewed but they are reviewing whether the notice can stay in his permanent file.

This quote from the Dispatch left me shaking my head:

“Freshwater said he wants to return to teaching but has been unable to land a job.

“I’ve come across several times where positions have been available and I was refused the position,” Freshwater said yesterday. “Obviously, I’ve been affected by the litigation, all the negative publicity. …

“I want to go back to teaching and to put my Bible back in the corner of my desk.””

http://www.dispatch.com/live/conten[…]html?sid=101

“I want to go back to teaching and to put my Bible back in the corner of my desk.””

http://www.dispatch.com/live/conten[…]html?sid=101

Well you are welcome to do so, in any private institution that condones such behavior. If you try it in another public school you will undoubtedly be fired again. But then every public school knows this, so I guess that’s why you are finding it so hard to get a job. If you call being outed for defiantly breaking the law and ignoring the constitution “bad publicity” then I guess you still don’t get it. You broke the law. You have no remorse for your actions. You obviously still don’t think you did anything wrong. Indeed, you fully intend to do it again, just as soon as you get the chance. You should not be allowed to teach in a public school again and anyone who hires you will get exactly what they deserve. You can cry crocodile tears over sour grapes all you want, but your god didn’t save you. You might consider the possibility that you were badly mistaken in your actions. If you want to preach, get your own pulpit where attendance isn’t mandatory.

anonatheist said:

The ODE is either complicit or spineless. They should be ashamed.

I’m not sure it’s either–they are performing their institutional function of protecting teachers with a level of process that is extremely unusual in the private sector. In many states it is extrememly difficult, requiring sometimes years of process, to reprimand or fire teachers even for obvious and egregious misconduct like Freshwater’s.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/ap[…]usd-20100424

“Thomas Shelden, a Los Angeles city schoolteacher who spent nearly two years outside the classroom with full pay and benefits while district officials investigated accusations against him, has been dismissed by the school board.…At that time, the district had about 160 employees assigned to administrative offices while claims against them were under review.…Under a long-standing practice, those employees are not given any assignments and receive their full wages and benefits…Shelden, whose annual salary was $73,500, had been accused of sexually harassing another instructor…he was required to work from his home, from which he had to check in with his supervisor twice a day. His activities were highlighted in a Times article last May. Shelden spent the day napping, watching television, taking walks and lifting weights.”

As a creationist teacher who burns crosses in kids’ arms he is being treated no differently from how Ohio would treat a teacher who sexually harassed students, or who was merely incompetent.

jingjingandgabriel said:

In many states it is extrememly difficult, requiring sometimes years of process, to reprimand or fire teachers even for obvious and egregious misconduct like Freshwater’s.

jinging,

What you say is true, but (if this turns out to be true – I’m still somewhat skeptical), this goes waaaay beyond taking a ridiculously long time to reprimand or dismiss a teacher. Freshwater has already been reprimanded and dismissed and had his lawsuit crash and burn, and now has stated publicly that he would like to get back to work and put a Bible back on his desk, thereby creating yet another round of constitutional chicken. And in response the this, the ODE has decided to remove evidence of his wrongdoing from his official file. That is why this is a big deal.

I would like to give lie to this myth that it is very hard to fire “bad” teachers. Teaching is very different from a private sector job, first off. We need a certain amount of protection from politics to be able to do our job in the classroom…otherwise, we could be easily and quickly fired for something as simple as refusing to do something against our contract, and being nailed for insubordination.

Except things like that actually happen here in Oklahoma and other “right to work” states. In most states, teachers who have been reprimanded or attempted to be fired are allowed a due process hearing before a district court judge, just as any other government employee would be. Why are teachers singled out as something special that we should be able to get booted out onto the street like so much trash?

After all, doctors and lawyers (also licensed professionals, like teachers) can continue to practice for YEARS while fighting lawsuits for various forms of malpractice, to include that which causes the accidental death or imprisonment of a client.

Bryan said:

I would like to give lie to this myth that it is very hard to fire “bad” teachers. Teaching is very different from a private sector job, first off. We need a certain amount of protection from politics to be able to do our job in the classroom…otherwise, we could be easily and quickly fired for something as simple as refusing to do something against our contract, and being nailed for insubordination.

There is a huge middle ground between quickly and easily fired for minor things, and taking years to fire someone while they draw full pay, is there not?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/n[…]6rubber.html

“Under the agreement, teachers the city is trying to fire will no longer be sent to the rubber rooms, known as reassignment centers, where the teachers show up every school day, sometimes for years, doing no work and drawing full salaries. Instead, these teachers will be assigned to administrative work or nonclassroom duties in their schools while their cases are pending…The union did not appear to sacrifice much in the deal. While the agreement speeds hearings, it does little to change the arduous process of firing teachers, particularly ineffective ones. Administrators still must spend months or even years documenting poor performance before the department can begin hearings, which will still last up to two months.…After removing a teacher from the classroom, Education Department officials will have 10 days to file incompetence charges and 60 days for charges of misconduct. Any teacher not formally charged within that time will be sent back to the classroom. In more serious cases, typically when teachers are charged with a felony, education officials can suspend a teacher without pay. Under current procedures, teachers could be removed from the classroom for six months before charges are even filed, although in practice some teachers have sat in the rubber room for years without formal charges.”

Certainly some level of due process is appropriate, but perhaps this level is a bit excessive.

Except things like that actually happen here in Oklahoma and other “right to work” states. In most states, teachers who have been reprimanded or attempted to be fired are allowed a due process hearing before a district court judge, just as any other government employee would be. Why are teachers singled out as something special that we should be able to get booted out onto the street like so much trash?

In the private sector, you get fired first, then you might see a judge if you have a case and you can get a lawyer to think you might win it. Are teachers entitled to better? Perhaps. But does that mean they are entitled to full pay for years while doing nothing?

After all, doctors and lawyers (also licensed professionals, like teachers) can continue to practice for YEARS while fighting lawsuits for various forms of malpractice, to include that which causes the accidental death or imprisonment of a client.

People who are not employees of course are a different matter, aren’t they? I suppose a lawyer or a doctor could fire himself. But I can choose which lawyers or doctors I pay, and they don’t get money from me unless I accept their services. I have no such choices regarding teachers.

I teach myself, though not in K-12.

jingjingandgabriel said:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/n[…]6rubber.html

“Under the agreement, teachers the city is trying to fire will no longer be sent to the rubber rooms, known as reassignment centers, where the teachers show up every school day, sometimes for years, doing no work and drawing full salaries. Instead, these teachers will be assigned to administrative work or nonclassroom duties in their schools while their cases are pending…The union did not appear to sacrifice much in the deal. While the agreement speeds hearings, it does little to change the arduous process of firing teachers, particularly ineffective ones. Administrators still must spend months or even years documenting poor performance before the department can begin hearings, which will still last up to two months.…After removing a teacher from the classroom, Education Department officials will have 10 days to file incompetence charges and 60 days for charges of misconduct. Any teacher not formally charged within that time will be sent back to the classroom. In more serious cases, typically when teachers are charged with a felony, education officials can suspend a teacher without pay. Under current procedures, teachers could be removed from the classroom for six months before charges are even filed, although in practice some teachers have sat in the rubber room for years without formal charges.”

Ummm jingjingandgabriel, you do realize that part of the problem here is that administration delays the process, lacks the material, manpower, and evidence collecting capability to process the cases? You seem to think that somehow the teachers are delaying the process and you seem to think that the “sometimes” element that talks about months or years is the norm rather than potentially extreme cases. We hear this quite a bit, but I have yet to see any evidence that the normal situation is for it to take months or years to fire a teacher. I’ve seen teachers go on improvement plans, receiving corrective counseling, and be released from contract or not renewed in a rather short period of time. I’ve also seen new teachers let go after a contract year for no actual reason. If they have less than three years in a “right to work” state, it is rather easy to get rid of a teacher.

Certainly some level of due process is appropriate, but perhaps this level is a bit excessive.

Again, other than anecdotal evidence and news stories that use language that admits there are “cases” where it can take months or years, what evidence do you have that it is the norm for these proceedings to take a long time. The biggest problem in the Freshwater case, for example, was the fact that his previous administrators didn’t document his behavior properly. Even in light of this, the investigation and the firing proceeded rather quickly. Had they done so it is quite likely the appellate hearing would have been over far more rapidly. The problem does not appear to be the guidelines, protections, or unions, it appears to be that the people tasked with the policing of his actions failed to do their jobs properly.

In the private sector, you get fired first, then you might see a judge if you have a case and you can get a lawyer to think you might win it. Are teachers entitled to better? Perhaps. But does that mean they are entitled to full pay for years while doing nothing?

In the private sector, with equivalent experience and responsibility, you get paid a hell of a lot more. You don’t have contracts that you will be fined for breaking, or as we’ve seen lately are only binding on the employee, and if you do have a contract it usually has grounds for rather significant financial benefits if your employment is terminated. Add to that, private sector employees don’t normally have subjects like biology and politics that they have to cover despite objections by parents. Also, quite honestly, if I could be fired because it was a Tuesday and administration at my site decided to do so, I would no longer work in public education. I have quite enough headaches to deal with already without having to wonder whether or not I’ll have a job this week.

People who are not employees of course are a different matter, aren’t they? I suppose a lawyer or a doctor could fire himself. But I can choose which lawyers or doctors I pay, and they don’t get money from me unless I accept their services. I have no such choices regarding teachers.

I teach myself, though not in K-12.

I’m just curious how and where you teach. If you’re at a university, you have tenure which, at the university generally makes K-12 job protection look like a complete joke.

dogmeat wrote

The biggest problem in the Freshwater case, for example, was the fact that his previous administrators didn’t document his behavior properly. Even in light of this, the investigation and the firing proceeded rather quickly. Had they done so it is quite likely the appellate hearing would have been over far more rapidly. The problem does not appear to be the guidelines, protections, or unions, it appears to be that the people tasked with the policing of his actions failed to do their jobs properly.

Bingo.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on July 19, 2011 2:01 PM.

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