Freshwater: No clear indication?

One of the claims in John Freshwater’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court is that he was “…not provided any clear indication as to the kinds of materials or teaching methods which are unacceptable…”. That is, no one told poor John what he couldn’t teach by way of alternatives. I spend a little time looking for evidence that he was in fact given guidance with respect to material inappropriate for use in his 8th grade science classroom. It turns out that there’s a fair amount of evidence that on a number of occasions Freshwater was specifically instructed that creationist and intelligent design material was not appropriate. I’ll mention a few salient occasions here that took me less than 30 minutes to find. Note that they’re from sworn testimony in the administrative hearing, the basis for the original resolution to terminate Freshwater’s employment as a middle school science teacher.

First, of course, there’s Freshwater’s 2002-2003 proposal that the Mt. Vernon district adopt the Intelligent Design Network’s Objective Origins Science Policy, and to add “critically analyze evolution” language to the district’s science curriculum. In support of his proposal Freshwater offered Jonathan Wells’ Survival of the Fakest, originally published in that distinguished science journal The American Spectator (actually a conservative commentary rag). He also distributed Wells’ Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution, and among those who spoke to the BOE in support of his proposal was young earth creationist Georgia Purdom, then an assistant professor at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, now a full-time employee of Answers in Genesis.

Freshwater’s proposal was rejected by the District’s Science Curriculum Committee and then by the Board of Education. That looks like a clear indication to me.

But that ain’t all. In a post on testimony in the administrative hearing I described several later attempts to get Freshwater to fly right. According to Director of Teaching and Learning Linda Weston’s testimony, Superintendent Jeff Maley told her that he had middle school assistant principal Tim Keib intervene with Freshwater concerning the latter’s use of material not consistent with the curriculum, and that Keib told Maley he could take care of it. But Keibs intervention didn’t take–Freshwater continued to use inappropriate materials.

When complaints subsequently arose that Freshwater still used inappropriate handouts, Freshwater had a meeting with Superintendent Jeff Maley, Weston, Science Department Chairman Richard Cunningham, and Charles Adkins, who is a Mt. Vernon middle school science teacher, former Assistant Director of Science Instruction K-12 at the Ohio Department of Education, and a consultant on the development of the state science model curriculum. My summary of it

Subsequently there was a meeting with Freshwater, Maley, Cunningham, Adkins, and Weston in which Freshwater was issued firm instructions to cease. Later in cross examination she was more specific, after having Maley’s letter to Freshwater following the meeting offered in evidence. She said that Freshwater was instructed not to teach ID (e.g., the handouts); was questioned about the source(s) and couldn’t provide any and was told not to use unsourced material; the Board’s 2003 decision of Freshwater’s proposal was reiterated; and Freshwater was instructed that he should stick to the curriculum and standards. This was the letter to which Freshwater responded with a letter and lesson plan in which the terms “irreducible complexity,” “specified complexity,” and “peppered moths” were used (see here).

A bit more about that meeting is here. Again, it sure looks like a “clear indication” to me.

Finally, Weston testified that the district subsequently held a voluntary workshop on the teaching of evolution to which Freshwater was invited. Freshwater did not attend. I recently received independent confirmation of that from another district science teacher. There was a chance for Freshwater to learn what was appropriate, but he failed to take advantage of it.

Freshwater’s claim to the Ohio Supreme Court that he was “…not provided any clear indication as to the kinds of materials or teaching methods which are unacceptable…” is ludicrous. Over several years there were repeated efforts, described in testimony and materials entered into evidence in the administrative hearing, to get across to him what he was and was not supposed to teach. Further, in declining to attend the workshop on teaching evolution, Freshwater actively avoided learning what was appropriate.

One thing I don’t know, and perhaps some of our readers with legal backgrounds can help me. How much lying is permitted in documents submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court?