Freshwater suing school board
MOUNT VERNON – Former eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater has filed a federal lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School Board, administrators and the investigative firm the board hired to look into allegations against him.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, cites free speech and equal protection violations under the US Constitution. Violations of Ohio Public Policy, religious harassment, retaliation, conspiracy, defamation, and breach of contract are also addressed in the claim filed Tuesday.
"The truth needs to be heard and I look forward to resolving this situation so I can get back to teaching science." Freshwater said, "I miss teaching and want to get back in the classroom."
The civil action alleges that Freshwater followed the directives given by the administration regarding items in his classroom in April 2008, but not for the removal of his personal Bible from his desk.
A press release from Freshwater’s supporters said, “While the board continues to claim that this is ‘not about the Bible on his desk,’ it was Freshwater’s public statements and refusal to remove his Bible from his desk which prompted the board’s actions and caused the chain of events that lead to this lawsuit.”
The claim alleges that Freshwater was discriminated against because of his personal religious beliefs and has been treated differently than other teachers in the district.
“The action shows a concerted effort was made by members of the MVCSDB and the administration to pose Freshwater in a bad light,” said the press release. “The administration ignored their duties in following the appropriate process with Freshwater and was negligent in their own knowledge and training of board policy.”
The lawsuit accuses investigators Thomas and Julia Hurlevi, hired by the board, failed to interview key individuals who had relevant information, of refusing to follow-up on leads which “could have acquitted Freshwater.”
Superintendant Steve Short, Middle School Principal William White, former school administrator Lynda Weston, school board members Ian Watson and Jody Goetzman, and the Hurlevi’s are all named individually, as well as in their official capacities, in the claim while Attorney David Millstone is named only in his capacity as an agent for the board of education.
According to Freshwater’s attorney, R Kelly Hamilton, the preference was to complete the public hearing before filing any action, but the refusal of board members to testify has delayed the hearing and pushed against the statute of limitations requirements.