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The latest setback for Freshwater

John Freshwater's legal challenge to the decision to terminate his employment as a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, failed on October 5, 2011, when a Knox County Common Pleas Court ruled against him. The Mount Vernon News (October 5, 2011) reported that the judge wrote, "there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Board of Education's termination of Freshwater's contract(s) for good and just cause," denied Freshwater's request for further hearings, and ordered him to pay the cost of the hearings. The Columbus Dispatch (October 5, 2011) added that Freshwater now has thirty days to appeal the decision to the Fifth District Court of Appeals.

The decision was the latest development in a long saga which began in 2008, when a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity — including teaching creationism — and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over the hearings finally issued his recommendation that the board terminate his employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011. Freshwater challenged that decision in court on February 8, 2011, as NCSE previously reported.

In a press release issued on October 6, 2011, the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based conservative legal group, announced its intention to appeal the decision on behalf of Freshwater to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The Rutherford Institute aided Freshwater previously, when it appealed the Ohio Department of Education's March 22, 2011, decision to admonish Freshwater for allowing students to "volunteer to touch a live Tesla coil." According to the Columbus Dispatch, "The issue has not been resolved. The department could remove the letter [of admonishment] permanently, return the letter to Freshwater’s file or begin a full hearing on the appeal."

Updated on October 6, 2011, by the addition of the third paragraph.