Freshwater: ODE Punts with Letter of Admonishment

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has issued a Letter of Admonishment to John Freshwater. In the March 22, 2011, letter that I obtained via a Public Records Request, ODE’s Office of Professional Conduct said “[T]he Department determined that you used poor judgment when you permitted students to volunteer to touch a live Tesla coil which resulted in an injury to a student. In mitigation, you ceased the use of the Tesla coil and removed it from your classroom.” It further said that “[Y]ou are admonished that if you engage in any further conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession, including further violations of Revised Code 3319.31, the State Board may initiate disciplinary proceedings to revoke, limit or suspend your teaching credential(s).” A copy of the Letter of Admonishment goes in Freshwater’s ODE file.

It appears that no other state sanction will occur. Freshwater’s teaching certificate expired in 2010 and according to the Letter of Admonishment he has applied to the ODE Office of Educator Licensure for a five-year professional high school teaching license. The letter says that the application will be granted: “Your pending application will be forwarded to the Office of Educator Licensure for issuance of your teaching credential.”

ODE’s letter does not mention the administrative hearing findings that led to Freshwater’s termination–his violation of the Establishment Clause and insubordination–and refers only tangentially to his teaching creationism, saying “The allegations that you did not follow the curriculum are employment related and are addressed at that level.” In other words, ODE doesn’t consider insubordination and teaching creationism to be “immoral, incompetent, negligent” or “conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession,” the statutory standards it supposedly enforces via its disciplinary and licensing procedures.

ODE punted. It had access to all the evidence and testimony of the administrative hearing along with the referee’s recommendation for termination and it punted on third and short.

AFAIK (I’ve been out of service for some weeks) Freshwater’s appeal of his termination by the Mt. Vernon Board of Education is still pending in federal court, it having been transferred there from the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. The federal judge has asked for briefs concerning the appropriate venue for the appeal.