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Settlement in Freshwater case final

The judge presiding over Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al. approved a proposed settlement on December 3, 2010, bringing the case to its end. The case centered on John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher, who was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom — including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses on the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism.

In his order, Judge Gregory L. Frost wrote (PDF), "Plaintiffs Stephen and Jenifer Dennis, individually and as natural parents and next friends of their minor child, ZD, and Defendant John Freshwater have reached an agreement to settle and resolve their differences and have stipulated to the entry of this Agreed Dismissal Order. The parties are to proceed in accordance with the terms of their settlement agreement. Pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this action is hereby dismissed with prejudice."

As the Mount Vernon News reported, "The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family [who originally filed suit under the pseudonym "Doe"] includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer, and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary." A previous report from the News (October 27, 2010) indicated that the school district's insurer, Ohio Casualty, will be liable for the payment, since Freshwater was employed by the district when the suit was filed.

The district was originally named in the lawsuit, but a settlement was reached in August 2009, leaving Freshwater as the sole defendant. Freshwater filed his own lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in June 2009, but then filed a notice to dismiss it in October 2010, claiming that it would have interfered with the administrative hearing on the termination of his employment with the district, which was conducted intermittently from October 2008 to June 2010. The referee presiding over the hearing has yet to release his decision.