Settlement in Freshwater case imminent

A settlement is in the works in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., the case in which John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher, 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. The Mount Vernon News (October 27, 2010) reports that the parties have signed the agreement, which still must be approved by a judge.

According to the News, "The settlement involves a $300,000 payment by Freshwater’s insurer to Stephen and Jenifer Dennis [the Does] to compensate them 'for mental pain and other damages suffered.' The insurer, Ohio Casualty, is the school district’s liability carrier, and is involved because Freshwater was a school district employee at the time the lawsuit was filed. A separate payment of $150,000, over the course of the next 13 years, will be used to purchase an annuity for their minor son, Zach Dennis, on whose behalf the lawsuit was originally filed."

Shortly beforehand, on October 21, 2010, Freshwater filed a notice to dismiss his own lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, which he filed in June 2009 after he was dismissed from employment with the district in June 2008. Freshwater claimed that he had been offered a financial settlement, but Sarah Moore, a lawyer representing the school district, denied it, telling the Columbus Dispatch (October 23, 2010), "I can confirm there was no settlement, and we're not expecting any."

Freshwater told the Associated Press (October 22, 2010) that he abandoned his lawsuit against the board because "it would have interfered with a public airing of his complaint in a different venue" — presumably the administrative hearing on the termination of his employment, which was conducted intermittently from October 2008 to June 2010. The referee presiding over the hearing has yet to release his decision. (Richard B. Hoppe's detailed reports on the hearing as well as the two lawsuits are available on The Panda's Thumb blog.)