From the “That Doesn’t Actually Make it Any Better” Department

First, yes, I’ve heard about the middle-school science teacher here in Ohio who is getting fired for branding crosses into the flesh of his students with a high frequency generator, and who was also slipping religion into his science teaching. Oops.

What stands in my mind, however, is this bit from the article, in which the teacher explained “he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an ‘X,’ not a cross.” Because, you see, zapping an “X” into the flesh of your pubescent students with a tool that outputs 50,000 volts a pop is not a problem.

The particular tool comes with the following warning: “Never touch or come in contact with the high voltage output of this device.” Any teacher willfully ignoring the safety instructions on high voltage equipment to use it to intentionally inflict pain and injury on his students, and to brand a large, recognizable pattern on their skin, is one that’s going to land on my “fire this idiot” list. You don’t even have to get into the religious angle, as far as I’m concerned. That’s just the bonus round, as far as the firing goes.

Another choice quote from the article, from a friend of the teacher: “With the exception of the cross-burning episode. … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,” said the friend. Yes, well. That’s a heck of an exception, now, isn’t it.

40 Comments on “From the “That Doesn’t Actually Make it Any Better” Department”

  1. Indeed. He committed a felony, he should be up on charges of same, and he should do time.

  2. Oh good, they fired him (I’ve been vaguely following this for a while). There was a third party investigative report the school board used. Note that the school board didn’t do anything about this – despite repeated complaints – until the parents of one of the kids that got a cross burned into their arm filed a lawsuit about that and the creationism.

  3. You know, that was the first thing that occurred to me too. What moronic teacher thinks it’s ok to mark up a student’s skin with ANYTHING like this?


  4. It’s regrettable that he didn’t sleep with the students (hopefully males) as well.

    Then we’d have a Christian Creationist Cross Burning Closeted Queer Student Molesting trifecta in effect!

    Say that 3 times quickly!

  5. Assault, torture, child endangerment, child abuse. If a parent did this to their own child they would be looking at loss of custody and jail time.
    This bozo isn’t a religous nut, he is just a nut lightly salted with religous fanaticism.
    The scary part is that he has been teaching for 21 years.

  6. I also wonder how the school board has not been cited as accessories to child abuse.

  7. “With the exception of the cross-burning episode. … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,”

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

  8. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I take back my more scathing comments about homeschooling now. If I had to send my kids to school in this district, I would be homeschooling until I was able to move elsewhere.

    I agree that the teacher, principal and school board should be tried in criminal court.

    God help anyone who did that to one of my kids.

    Speechless. Holy Jebus, what kind of school lets that happen?
    How is this not a jailing offense again?

  10. Oh, and:
    “Principal William D. White wrote a letter to Freshwater in January, telling him not to shock children with the device. The letter noted that it would not be placed in his personnel file unless he shocked his students again.”

    Fire the principal, too. “Hey, you know, don’t shock the kids. Not that we’re gonna do anything about it, but, you know…Don’t, mmm-kay?”

  11. This teacher not only should be fired, he should be beaten by all the kids and the kids parents. If he’s a religious man they should beat him with heavy copies of the bible. Burning x’s into children, what a FUCKIN PIECE of stepped in DOGSHIT. If it was burning a cross then he’s a ignorant clueless religious nut job PIECE of stepped in DOGSHIT.

    I hope he does some jail time.

  12. From the trial’s transcript:

    “Yes, I know John Freshwater. He is most kind and generous.

    He is a cup overflowing with the cream of human goodness.

    I have never known him to do anything immoral.

    Unless maybe the Preschooler’s Prostitute Ring.

    And he has never done anything illegal.

    Unless you count all the times he sold dope disguised as a nun.

    He has always been a good, law-abiding citizen …

    Give me a break!

    … of the Federation …
    Shut up! Shut up!

    A community-conscious individual.
    Freshwater?! He is just a low-down, –

    – double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous, perverted worm!

    Hanging is too good for him! Burning is too good for him!

    He should be torn into little pieces and buried alive!

    I will kill him! Kill!!


  13. Remember that part I said in the comments about religious bigots being illogical. I rest my case.

    This might be a stupid question, but, the burn marks are permanent right? I mean, they’re not going to heal up and sort of disappear over time, maybe be just a little discoloration? The marks are going to be crosses period, right?
    Seems to me if he did this to more than one student that’s more than one count of assault. He should be charged for each kid he burned this mark into, and he should do a hell of a lot of jail time if those marks are not ever going to go away, because he didn’t ask those kids if they wanted a cross or anything burned in their arms…

    Good riddens to a crappy teacher.

  14. SMD:

    I don’t believe the burns are permanent, but if I read the story correctly they persisted for a number of weeks.

  15. To be fair, he really did teach them a valuable lesson: never trust adults, teachers or religious people. A good lesson to learn at such a young age.

  16. If any of the kids had been my kid (if I had a kid) … I wouldn’t rest until the man was in jail. Because out of jail, he can inflict pain on more students.

    Of course, once fired, he’s going to have a difficult time, I think, finding a school district that will hire him.

  17. And people ask themselves what’s wrong with the public school system…

    People like that have tenure in schools all over the country, and they’re essentially unfireable,unless they do something outrageous…like sleeping with a student and getting caught, or burning crosses into a student’s skin.

    My old History teacher used to joke that he was allowed to kill two students per year without a reprimand, and he wasn’t too far off the mark.

  18. Was teaching the values of the parents of his community? Oh please. Go teach at a private evangelical school then and don’t corrupt kids with your warped brand of Christianity. Not all of us think the same.

  19. Why is it every time something stupid happens in a public school system, it’s an indictment against public schools? Last time I checked more kids and teaches were in public schools than private or home schooled. There are surely aberrant teachers in private schools and dysfunctional home schooling situations, too — it’s just that the long tail is longer with a bigger population.

    That said, this guy intentionally hurt students doing something which the manufacturer specifically said not to do. He’s wrong and there’s not much can be said to make it seem right.

    Totally different than last week when I hammered a student’s hand. (a) This was college, after all and (b) I’d placed a lead brick between the hand and the rapidly descending ball peen hammer, so (c) this was Physics — the law of inertia. The student felt nothing from the blow. Oh, and I draped a paper towel over the student’s hand before slowly placing the lead brick on it. Wouldn’t want any lead contamination. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  20. I can’t even formulate a coherent response to this. The things that some people convince themselves are OK to do will never cease to blow my mind.

  21. John Freshwater got the firing (finally) he so richly deserved.

    Now he needs to recieve the opportunity to sit in a 10 x 6 room with bars at one end and a roomate named Bubba.

    But he’s not the only one who deserves to be fired for cause. The principal needs to accompany him on his journey to unemployment, and they both need to be accompanied by the Child Services person who chose not to start an investigation after being informed that “about four months ago one of our teachers burned X’s or crosses into the arms of more than one of our students, but, you know, he didn’t really mean any harm, it was all just an unfortunate accident”. One mark is an accident, two marks, crossing each other and forming either an X or a cross or whatever you might wish to label it, is assault.

  22. SMD @ 15:

    I bumped into a similar device in college doing the ionizing gases experiment. It was a stand up device and I turned around and hit it with my arm. I probably had a shorter contact with it than these kids did, but the marks on my arm disappeared after a while, so hopefully it does for these kids, too.

    Regardless of whether it was a cross or an x or anything else, if he wanted to show what the device would do to human skin (for the life of me I can’t figure out what scientific application he could’ve even been trying to show), he should’ve done it to himself or another adult volunteer. If the kids ‘volunteered’ to be hit by this (the article didn’t seem clear on that), assault might be hard to nail him with, but it sounds like as good of a place as any to start. Religious issues notwithstanding, the teacher was an idiot to think that was acceptable and that no one would raise a fuss about it.

  23. Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention, this really does demontstrate that, as the comic* said, “you just can’t fix stupid.”

    *whose name escapes me at the moment, Ron White, perhaps ?

  24. When I read the preliminary report of this in my local paper, my first thought was “fire the bastard.” I am glad to see it happened. But I also am wondering about the lack of assault charges. I should think the parents of every one of his students would be demanding them.

  25. When I started reading about it, I didn’t read WHERE this was happening, I figured it was some southern state (Florida would surprise me). Then I read it in this mornings paper.

    Columbus!?!?! WTF!?!? The idiots have gotten into my home town!?!?!? How dare they!

  26. It’s not a case of assault, or at least it would be extremely difficult to convict him on assault charges – especially if the students consented to the process – for a variety of reasons.

    However, the students are under the age of consent, and the teacher is both an adult and the adult charged with their care and protection at the time. Additionally, as the operator of the RF emitter in a public venue, he is responsible for its safe and correct operation including any hazards associated with the device. It does not matter if the students consented, they are under the
    age of majority and this is no different than in cases of consensual statutory rape. The teacher is in a position of authority and willingly used a hazardous device with malice aforethought, causing harm to a minor.

    Religion has nothing to do with it.

    The proper charge in this case is Child Endangerment, Aggravated Child Endangerment if it can be determined that the device was used on unwilling minors.

  27. Did anyone note *this* little nugget in the yahoo piece?

    “Other findings show that Freshwater taught that carbon dating was unreliable to argue against evolution.”

    And this cockstick is/was a SCIENCE TEACHER!?

  28. “Principal William D. White wrote a letter to Freshwater in January, telling him not to shock children with the device. The letter noted that it would not be placed in his personnel file unless he shocked his students again.”

    WHY doesn’t stuff ever happen in places where I practice law? So unfair. My opponents are almost never this stupid.

  29. And see, I thought cross-burning usually referred to another, even more unpleasant activity. We probably can’t call this situation cross-branding, though, seeing as how organizations such as the Red Cross and the government of Switzerland place such importance on their cross brands. They’d become cross.

  30. Freshwater lives in Mt Vernon, OH (not Columbus). I’m one of the parents in the school district–one of the ones who was whooping and hollering in celebration on Friday night. Why did it take so long to get this guy fired? The principal and superintendent are new. They came in and actually cleaned up a situation that had persisted for far too long because the folks in this very small town were reluctant to make a big fuss. (!) As I noted in my blog, the response to my letter to the editor in support of the school board when this all started was an anonymous religious pamphlet in the mail. I wasn’t really kidding when I asked “what’s next? A fiery cross on my family’s front lawn?”

  31. In my defense, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that was not a cross that I was burning into the skin of schildren. It was a plus sign. And, if the school administration had not interrupted me, I would have proceeded to burn a minus sign, multiplication sign, division sign, and square root symbol into their skin. I mean, do you want them to learn Math or not? Our days are numbered. A version of this expression appears in the Bible (Daniel 5:26): “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it.” It came into common use in the late 1800s. Q.E.D.; Amen.

  32. Sounds like the kind of teacher that says, “Here, just grab this capacitor…”

    Oh, fun times.

    As for teaching the values of the community, well, I guess his marks clear up faster than the cigarette burns, but still one would think a professional would have more discretion (and brains).

    My guess is this community also prides itself as a “sports town.” With the football team gathering the majority of the budget (because, you know, nobody else in Ohio would have such a problem, and don’t get me started on the homeschoolers who pay for programs on Creationism). Jeanne, any insights?

  33. Friday night football games are indeed a very big deal in this town. And I’ve been told that Freshwater is a coach for some sport, although I can’t remember which one and I don’t think it’s connected to the middle or high school. Certainly no one else in Ohio would have such a problem–unless the school administration got tired of the way “it’s always been done here” and aired some dirty laundry for a change. Freshwater’s followers (and they are legion) are now trying to have the school board recalled.

  34. @SMD: Small burn marks do tend to disappear over time. Otherwise, my days in fast food would have left both forearms a blotchy, discolored mess. :) Larger burns do stay, of course — generally, any burn I got that was larger around than a dime has left at least a small mark.

    And John… Yeah. Never mind the religious crap, the fact that the dude knowingly and willingly burned children… Yeesh. The principal and school board are facing some MAJOR lawsuits.

  35. Meanwhile, on a religious-news site (where I read of the incident), one of the comments posted was (paraphrased) “No true born-again Christian would do such a thing…therefore we have to question the reports in the secular media that it happened.”

  36. I especially “like” the bit where “Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an ‘X,’ not a cross. But pictures show a cross, the report said.”

    Because while burning a cross would be bad, just doing an X is okay.

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