Supreme Court: Freshwater can’t force board members to testify
Mount Vernon City School Board members do not have to testify at the termination hearing of suspended eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater, the Ohio Supreme Court said this morning in a ruling.
Justices voted 7-0 and did not issue an opinion because it’s a matter of procedure, a court spokesperson said.
Freshwater had argued through his attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, that if board members Ian Watson and Jody Goetzman weren’t forced to testify that it would violate his due process rights. That argument was first made to Knox County Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster, who ruled that he had not have authority since the hearing is an administrative process.
Attorneys from the school district countered that the testimony of Goetzman and Watson would taint their ability to render a final decision on Freshwater’s employment.
Freshwater is on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the hearing. He’s accused of burning the arm of a student with an electrostatic generator and of preaching Christianity in the classroom.
Board members voted over a year ago that there was probable cause to fire Freshwater, but that hinges on the outcome of the administrative hearing. The school district has spent over $300,000 in legal fees for its defense.