Report: Teacher Burned Cross On Students' Arms

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Mount Vernon City school board members drafted a resolution on Friday to consinder the termination an eighth grade teacher accused of burning a cross onto students' arms.

An independent investigation concluded that John Freshwater, a science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, also taught creationism in his science class, 10TV News reported.

Freshwater, who worked for the school district for 21 years, "improperly used an electrostatic device" to burn images of a cross on students' arms last December, according to the report.

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"Contrary to Mr. Freshwater's statement that he simply made an 'X,' not a 'cross,' all of the students described the marking as a cross and the pictures provided depict a cross," the report stated.

The independent review of Freshwater also included interviews with ninth grade teachers who "expressed frustration and concern" because they had to "re-teach" some concepts to Freshwater's former students, 10TV's Andy Hirsch reported.

The report also included questionnaires that ninth grade teachers gave to their students. When asked about their favorite subjects, some students answered, "Evolution because we always had debates about it," and "I liked debating about creation and evolution, because it's always fun to debate."

The report concluded, "Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationish and related theories and calling evolution into question."

According to the report, Freshwater also refused to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom.

Freshwater called the issues, including allegations he burned crosses into students' arms during class, half-truths, Hirsch reported. He said this is about his sticking up for his first amendment rights.

"The original statement I made on April 16 was (about) my personal bible on my desk," Freshwater said. "Why? Because it gives me inspiration and it gets me through the day. That's what it's all about for me."

Freshwater said he plans to appeal the school board's decision.

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April 22, 2008: Teacher Accused Of Burning Crosses Onto Students' Arms
April 17, 2008:  Student Backs Teacher In Fight To Keep Bible On Desk
April 16, 2008:  Teacher Refuses To Move Bible From Desk