Teaching Intelligent Design and burning crosses

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a much awaited report on the activities of John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon teacher, has finally been released.

The conclusions are straightforward and shocking

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, a probe has found.

Worse, the teacher “burned crosses onto students’ arms, using an electrostatic device, in December. Freshwater told investigators the marks were Xs, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses.”

While his defenders argued that the teacher merely used the device to draw ‘X’, the picture shows otherwise.


To me this clearly looks like a cross, not an ‘X’.

In other news, the family of one of the students who was burned filed a federal lawsuit last week against the teacher Freshwater and the school district.

Freshwater’s friend, Dave Daubenmire, defended him.

“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,’’ he said.

Even if that were correct, that is no excuse for violating the constitution and branding crosses in children’s arms. Not to mention the other violations of a teacher’s responsibilities towards his students.

It is shocking to me as a Christian and a scientists that this teacher violated not just the Constitution but also how the school seemed to have turned a blind eye towards the problem and how both the school and the teacher have violated their oath and duty towards their students.

What shocks me further is how his defenders attempted to trivialize the actions by Freshwater. Until now, I had assumed that there existed valid explanations for his actions however the report makes it very clear that none exist.

The final conclusions of the report:

There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwaters’ teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and State standards. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement, the evidence indicates he has been teaching creationism and intelligent design and has been teaching the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He has passed out materials to students for the past several years challenging evolution and then collecting the materials back from the students. He has done so in spite of specific directives not to teach creationism or intelligent design. He has taught students to use the code word “Here” to challenge scientific process that is considered settled by the high school science teachers.

That by itself is sufficiently troubling however this is not where his actions ended

In addition, there is evidence that Mr. Freshwater inappropriately said to his class that science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and therefore is a sinner.

And finally, Freshwater used an electrostatic device improperly to brand a cross in the arms of his students

Mr. Freshwater did improperly use an electrostatic device on the student who filed the complaint and other students in his science class in a manner that was not in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions. While there did not appear to be any intent by Mr.Freshwater to cause injury to any student, he was not using the device for its intended purpose. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement he simply made an “X” not a “cross,” all of the students described the marking as a “cross” and the pictures provided depict a “cross”.

Indeed, it surely does not look like an X to me either. And yet his defenders took him at his word that it was an X and not a cross, a statement belied by the children and the photographs.

Mr. Freshwater was insubordinate in failing to remove all of the religious materials from his classroom as ordered by his superior, Principal White.

  • Mr. Freshwater did burn a cross onto the complaining family’s child’s arm using an electrostatic device not designed for that purpose
  • The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White’s letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.
  • Several Bibles were kept in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom including his personal Bible on his desk and one he checked out of the library placed on the lab table near the desk.
    Other Bibles that had been maintained in the room were removed by the time the investigators viewed Mr. Freshwater’s room.
  • Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose.
  • Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA meetings in violation of the District’s legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.
  • Mr. Freshwater participated and possibly lead a prayer during an FCA meeting that concerned a guest speaker’s health. There is no conclusion as to whether such prayer was a “healing” prayer.
  • There is no evidence Mr. Freshwater violated the District’s permission slip policy.
  • There is no evidence Mr. Freshwater made statements about FCA members “being the saved ones” nor was there any corroboration to the allegation Mr. Freshwater gave FCA members Bibles for them to distribute. He did have two boxes of Bibles in the back of his room.
  • Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie “Expelled” which does involve intelligent design.