Mount Vernon City Schools
John Freshwater allegedly used a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

Teacher’s Dismissal Mirrors National Debate on Religion in Schools

July 09, 2008 05:52 PM
by Christopher Coats
The expulsion of a controversial science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, has once again sparked a national discussion about the role of religion in public schools.

30-Second Summary

From the town square to countless online forums, the plight of Jon Freshwater is the latest chapter in a debate that has raged in American schools for almost a century.

A month after the Mount Vernon School Board voted unanimously to remove Freshwater from his position for allegedly “preaching his Christian beliefs in the classroom and burning crosses on students’ arms,” supporters and critics have become increasingly vocal about the actions of the middle school teacher.

While Freshwater’s case involves additional accusations of physical abuse, it is similar to a number of cases across the country focusing on the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in the classroom.

Since being fired, support has come for Freshwater in the form of town square demonstrations and online petitions demanding he be reinstated.

However, a large number of Mount Vernon residents and national critics have voiced their support for the board decision, pointing out that Freshwater had received complaints for his behavior for more than 11 years before his dismissal.

Freshwater is far from the first educator to face disciplinary action regarding the role of religion in the classroom. Teachers on both sides of the issue have been cited for their take on how science is balanced with personal faith.

The issue may soon find a national platform after Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal introduced a bill that would allow the use of “supplemental materials” in the classroom to counter any discussion of evolution.

Jindal has been mentioned on several occasions as a possible running mate for the Republican nominee, John McCain.

Headline Link: Loud voices on both sides

Background: Not the first or last

Reactions: An appeal and further investigation

Opinion & Analysis: Defending Freshwater

Related Topic: Intelligent Design in schools



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