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School fires Ohio teacher accused of burning crosses on students

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio science teacher accused of burning the image of a cross on students’ arms said Tuesday that he’s disappointed school officials voted to fire him.

The Mount Vernon school board decided Monday night to accept a state hearing officer’s recommendation to terminate John Freshwater. The firing took effect a few hours later, at midnight, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Freshwater registered his unhappiness in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday but did not say whether he’d appeal. He had appealed an earlier move to dismiss him after an internal investigation.

He was accused of preaching Christian beliefs in class when discussing topics such as evolution and homosexuality. He also was accused of using a scientific device to mark students with a cross and of keeping a Bible on his desk.

The state officer’s report said there was “a plausible explanation” for Freshwater’s use of the scientific device, though it didn’t detail the explanation, and that the administration had dealt with that issue. But the officer found “good and just cause” last week for firing Freshwater, concluding he did not adjust his teaching to comply with the law and school policy and that he was defiant in other ways, such as checking out religious texts from the school library and leaving them on his desk.

Freshwater tried “to make eighth-grade science what he thought it should be — an examination of accepted scientific curriculum with the discerning eye of Christian doctrine,” and he “used his classroom as a means of sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of impressionable students as they searched for meaning in the subject of science,” hearing officer R. Lee Shepherd wrote.

Doug Mansfield, a lawyer for the family of a student who said he was burned, said the family is glad this part of the case is wrapping up. The family had settled a lawsuit against Freshwater.

The Mount Vernon schools superintendent did not return calls seeking comment.



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