MOUNT VERNON — John Freshwater, fired Mount Vernon Middle School teacher, has petitioned the Ohio Department of Education to have a letter of admonishment removed from his file and to have his teaching license renewed. Douglas Mansfield, attorney for the family of the student whom Freshwater has characterized as a liar, has written to ODE to present the family’s views on the matters.
Mansfield expressed the family’s concern over ODE’s decision to consider renewing Freshwater’s teaching license in spite of the improper use of an electrical device in class.
“It was not merely ‘poor judgment’ for Mr. Freshwater to apply it to the arms of his students,” Mansfield wrote. “It was reckless and dangerous to do so. ... Mr. Freshwater’s use of the Tesla coil on his students warrants more than an admonishment; it warrants the permanent revocation of his teaching license based on such an extreme lapse of judgment.”
Referring to the letter Freshwater’s attorney Kelly Hamilton sent to the ODE in April asking that the letter of admonishment be removed from Freshwater’s file, Mansfield asserted, “Mr. Hamilton’s letter is nothing more than a blatant attempt by Mr. Freshwater to run from responsibility for his inappropriate actions — something he has done all along in this case. ... No one — not even Mr. Freshwater himself — disputes that he used a Tesla coil on [the student’s arm].”
Mansfield included an enumeration of facts he feels Hamilton “conveniently omitted” in his letter; such as, 10 students did confirm being told the Tesla coil would leave a mark on their arms and instructions for the proper use of the Tesla coil were readily available and Freshwater had seen them. Mansfield supported his claims with copies of transcripts of relevant testimony given in Freshwater’s contract termination hearing.
Countering Hamilton’s assertion that the State Board of Education should not discipline Freshwater because the city school system had already taken some action against Freshwater regarding the use of the Tesla coil, Mansfield said it was indeed proper for the state board to so do. He said Freshwater violated several of Ohio’s licensure standards, engaged in acts of cruelty to children, endangered children and failed to provide appropriate supervision with respect to the health, safety and welfare of the students.
“A science teacher for more than 20 years,” Mansfield wrote, “he should have known better than to apply a high voltage electrical device to the minor students under his care.”
Raising the issue of religion in the classroom, Mansfield told the ODE Freshwater’s actions were “part of a deliberate campaign to inculcate his students with his own religious beliefs. [Italics in original letter] Mr. Freshwater’s actions not only violate the laws and standards upheld by the Department but they also undermine the rights of parents of this state to choose how their children learn about religion.”
Rebutting Hamiltons’ claim that the student who brought Freshwater’s actions to light is a liar, Mansfield referred the ODE to the federal court judge’s determination that “Mr. Freshwater and Mr. Hamilton, not [the student], were ‘less than forthcoming’ and that they, not [the student] had engaged in misconduct.”
“For all of these reasons,” Mansfield concluded, “the [family] respectfully request that the Department not only keep Mr. Freshwater’s letter of admonishment in place but that it also cancels his teaching license.”