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Old 29 Mar 2009, 01:30 PM   #15315 / #1
Notta
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Default Freshwater hearings in Ohio - separation of church & state

For those of you who may not know, our very own RBH has been doing an outstanding job of summarizing the testimony in a trial in Ohio about a middle school science teacher, John Freshwater, who has been accused of using a Tesla coil to burn a cross on a student's arm, using creationist material in his science classroom, and proselytizing to students during the school day.

You can find more links to the daily testimony at The Panda's Thumb.

What really intrigued me lately was the supporting testimony from another 7th/8th grade math/science teacher as to her own actions in school about religion, proselytizing, and promoting her viewpoint to the students.

Here's a link to the full testimony (scroll down to Lori Miller direct examination).

Here are some choice tidbits that really got my dander up, being a former middle school science teacher myself:

Quote:
Displaying a picture of her desk, she showed that the Bible and devotional books were plainly visible, piled on a corner of the desk. She described religious materials displayed on one quadrant of her classroom bulletin board. They included a cross given to her by a student (roughly 8” high by 5” wide), a “Faith” card, and notes from her husband with Bible verses on them. She had removed those items on instructions from Bill White, middle school Principal, and Superintendent Short before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
Quote:
Miller testified that she had never had any instruction on the First Amendment Separation Clause. Asked if she had encouraged students at school to embrace Christianity before the Freshwater affair began last year, she readily responded that she had done so. She gave examples in an excited voice. She had prayed over students in the halls and lunchroom, had counseled them to seek Christ, and so on. She said, “I honestly didn’t think that was wrong.” She was very enthusiastic in voice and manner about her proselytizing in the public schools.
How on EARTH could a public school teacher in this century think it was a good thing to do to counsel her student to seek Christ, have multiple religious books on her desk, pray over and with students in the halls and lunchroom, etc.??

It doesn't matter how strong her faith is, or how much she wants to bring kids to Christ. What matters is that, as a public school teacher, she has no right to impose her religious beliefs on her students in her classroom on school time. And she didn't know??? That beggars belief. She is either incredibly ignorant about the law (which is entirely possible), or simply thinks it is wrong and does what she wants to.

According to information that is coming out in the trial, other teachers at this school share her viewpoint. It's entirely likely that many parents share it, too.

I wonder if the school board or superintendent can put her on notice and remove her from the classroom if this continues. It seems as if the principal, superintendent, other teachers, and parents knew this was going on, but it was implicitly approved until the lawsuit came along.

At any rate, kudos to RBH for sitting in on the days & days of testimony and condensing it for readers of The Panda's Thumb.
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 04:15 PM   #15403 / #2
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What I can't get over is how these teachers come over as totally dumb. How did they get to be teachers?
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 04:18 PM   #15406 / #3
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by sucking up to stupid principals
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 04:21 PM   #15412 / #4
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What's the career path for principals. Do they start off as teachers? What are the requirements to become a principal?
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 05:14 PM   #15447 / #5
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What's the career path for principals. Do they start off as teachers? What are the requirements to become a principal?
In Ohio at least, most are former teachers, sometimes for only a year or two, who went to graduate school to get the necessary certifications for administration. There are requirements for cert defined by the State Department of Education for administrators, and degree programs in graduate schools of education. I don't know the requirements in detail, but it mainly requires persistence, not brains or common sense.
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 07:47 PM   #15543 / #6
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What's the career path for principals. Do they start off as teachers? What are the requirements to become a principal?
In Ohio at least, most are former teachers, sometimes for only a year or two, who went to graduate school to get the necessary certifications for administration. There are requirements for cert defined by the State Department of Education for administrators, and degree programs in graduate schools of education. I don't know the requirements in detail, but it mainly requires persistence, not brains or common sense.
In PA, you need 3 years in the classroom and a 1 year program to get a principal certification. Most principals and superintendents (director of an entire school district) I met were examples of the (Wikipedia)Peter Principle.
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 08:03 PM   #15552 / #7
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Why don't you need many more years teaching first?
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 08:09 PM   #15556 / #8
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Why don't you need many more years teaching first?
That would be logical, wouldn't it? And I find that very little policy or practice in education is based on logic.
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Old 29 Mar 2009, 10:59 PM   #15611 / #9
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Why don't you need many more years teaching first?
That would be logical, wouldn't it? And I find that very little policy or practice in education is based on logic.
Consider this: I am qualified to do everything from teaching first-year university students to supervising post-doctoral researchers, but I am not qualified to teach high school in the U.S.
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Old 30 Mar 2009, 12:16 AM   #15650 / #10
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Why don't you need many more years teaching first?
That would be logical, wouldn't it? And I find that very little policy or practice in education is based on logic.
Consider this: I am qualified to do everything from teaching first-year university students to supervising post-doctoral researchers, but I am not qualified to teach high school in the U.S.
It used to be policy in South Dakota that anyone with a bachelor's degree who had taken even ONE course in a subject was 'qualified' to teach that subject.

In PA, even if you have a PhD, have published numerous books and articles, and have taught at the university level for your ENTIRE career, you are no longer considered "highly qualified" or are even certified to teach K-12 in any subject whatsoever.
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Old 30 Mar 2009, 04:03 PM   #16160 / #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Notta View Post
For those of you who may not know, our very own RBH has been doing an outstanding job of summarizing the testimony in a trial in Ohio about a middle school science teacher, John Freshwater, who has been accused of using a Tesla coil to burn a cross on a student's arm, using creationist material in his science classroom, and proselytizing to students during the school day.

You can find more links to the daily testimony at The Panda's Thumb.

What really intrigued me lately was the supporting testimony from another 7th/8th grade math/science teacher as to her own actions in school about religion, proselytizing, and promoting her viewpoint to the students.

Here's a link to the full testimony (scroll down to Lori Miller direct examination).

Here are some choice tidbits that really got my dander up, being a former middle school science teacher myself:

Quote:
Displaying a picture of her desk, she showed that the Bible and devotional books were plainly visible, piled on a corner of the desk. She described religious materials displayed on one quadrant of her classroom bulletin board. They included a cross given to her by a student (roughly 8” high by 5” wide), a “Faith” card, and notes from her husband with Bible verses on them. She had removed those items on instructions from Bill White, middle school Principal, and Superintendent Short before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
Quote:
Miller testified that she had never had any instruction on the First Amendment Separation Clause. Asked if she had encouraged students at school to embrace Christianity before the Freshwater affair began last year, she readily responded that she had done so. She gave examples in an excited voice. She had prayed over students in the halls and lunchroom, had counseled them to seek Christ, and so on. She said, “I honestly didn’t think that was wrong.” She was very enthusiastic in voice and manner about her proselytizing in the public schools.
How on EARTH could a public school teacher in this century think it was a good thing to do to counsel her student to seek Christ, have multiple religious books on her desk, pray over and with students in the halls and lunchroom, etc.??

It doesn't matter how strong her faith is, or how much she wants to bring kids to Christ. What matters is that, as a public school teacher, she has no right to impose her religious beliefs on her students in her classroom on school time. And she didn't know??? That beggars belief. She is either incredibly ignorant about the law (which is entirely possible), or simply thinks it is wrong and does what she wants to.

According to information that is coming out in the trial, other teachers at this school share her viewpoint. It's entirely likely that many parents share it, too.

I wonder if the school board or superintendent can put her on notice and remove her from the classroom if this continues. It seems as if the principal, superintendent, other teachers, and parents knew this was going on, but it was implicitly approved until the lawsuit came along.

At any rate, kudos to RBH for sitting in on the days & days of testimony and condensing it for readers of The Panda's Thumb.
This is pure gold!

RBH, I cannot fully express in words my appreciation of your efforts to compile and keep a record of this event.

Is there anyway to get the official transcripts of the hearing?

Also, you should seriously consider making one file for inevitable publishing purposes.

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Old 30 Mar 2009, 08:19 PM   #16377 / #12
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This is pure gold!

RBH, I cannot fully express in words my appreciation of your efforts to compile and keep a record of this event.

Is there anyway to get the official transcripts of the hearing?

Also, you should seriously consider making one file for inevitable publishing purposes.

Thanks for the kind words.

Transcripts have to be bought from the court reporter and cost on the order of $2.50 per page. (Court reporters are private contractors and make a significant part of their living selling transcripts. I don't know if the two sides to a hearing get one free transcript each or have to pay for them, too.)

I will likely do some sort of consolidation post, or at least write an annotated list of links for the individual posts sometime this summer. The hearing is definitely dragging on into the summer. The next hearing dates are this week Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3, and then we're looking at June since there are apparently no May dates when all the attorneys are available. Gaaah!

(BTW, just to add to the labor involved, the referee has prohibited recording devices so it's all based on dozens of pages of handwritten notes per day/witness. I haven't taken so many notes since I was an undergraduate! )
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Old 31 Mar 2009, 01:53 AM   #16533 / #13
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Miller testified that she had never had any instruction on the First Amendment Separation Clause. Asked if she had encouraged students at school to embrace Christianity before the Freshwater affair began last year, she readily responded that she had done so. She gave examples in an excited voice. She had prayed over students in the halls and lunchroom, had counseled them to seek Christ, and so on. She said, “I honestly didn’t think that was wrong.” She was very enthusiastic in voice and manner about her proselytizing in the public schools.
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Old 31 Mar 2009, 01:56 AM   #16536 / #14
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Thought this was going to be about wetlands....
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Old 31 Mar 2009, 02:55 AM   #16574 / #15
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Thought this was going to be about wetlands....
LOL! That's what my Google News trap often gets for this topic.

BTW, the district did offer a voluntary 'religion and the schools' workshop for teachers in the fall of 2003. Freshwater didn't take it. I don't know if Miller did. Most likely not, given her testimony.
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Old 31 Mar 2009, 11:29 AM   #16662 / #16
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BTW, the district did offer a voluntary 'religion and the schools' workshop for teachers in the fall of 2003. Freshwater didn't take it. I don't know if Miller did. Most likely not, given her testimony.
I can't believe that the district even needed to hold a workshop like that. I'm guessing that there were problems long before anything became public.
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Old 31 Mar 2009, 11:53 AM   #16675 / #17
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I can't believe that the district even needed to hold a workshop like that. I'm guessing that there were problems long before anything became public.
I'm guessing that our definition of "problem" is quite a bit different from theirs.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 02:06 AM   #17465 / #18
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BTW, the district did offer a voluntary 'religion and the schools' workshop for teachers in the fall of 2003. Freshwater didn't take it. I don't know if Miller did. Most likely not, given her testimony.
I can't believe that the district even needed to hold a workshop like that. I'm guessing that there were problems long before anything became public.
Sure. But in fact, prospective teachers don't much training at all in those kinds of issues, I've learned. So offering a workshop on religion and the schools isn't as strange as it may sound. One has to remember that we here are hyper-aware of those kinds of issues, whereas most people are actually pretty ignorant of them. They didn't follow the Dover trial, don't know what the Establishment Clause means as interpreted by the Supreme Court, and in many cases would be surprised (as Lori Miller was) to find that casual "sharing my faith" in the schools was illegal.

I've bugged AU about materials for that kind of thing, to no avail yet. There may be some out there in other venues, though. I'll have to look around.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 02:40 AM   #17471 / #19
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I've bugged AU about materials for that kind of thing, to no avail yet. There may be some out there in other venues, though. I'll have to look around.
A summary of current law on religion in the public schools can be found in these nearly identical documents. The only thing that they don't say is that students and staff have the right to sit out the pledge and that ID is understood to be religion.

http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html

http://www.aclu.org/religion/schools...g19950412.html

Note the list of signers at the bottom of the ACLU version.

Though over 10 years old, they are still current.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 07:36 AM   #17513 / #20
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Many thanks for that.

And I've just put up another 4,100 well-chosen words, including links to the docs you provided, cf.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 10:07 AM   #17545 / #21
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I really do admire you, RBH, for sitting so patiently through what must be excruciatingly deadly days at that hearing.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 11:37 AM   #17563 / #22
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Great work!

Plus, RBH gave a shout-out and a link to our new board here on his page at The Panda's Thumb.
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Old 01 Apr 2009, 05:23 PM   #17795 / #23
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Great work!

Plus, RBH gave a shout-out and a link to our new board here on his page at The Panda's Thumb.
Thank crazyfingers: He gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.
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Old 02 Apr 2009, 01:06 AM   #18081 / #24
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Many thanks for that.

And I've just put up another 4,100 well-chosen words, including links to the docs you provided, cf.
Cool. More people need to read those documents. The rules are really very simple and easy to follow for anyone with a desire to follow them.
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Old 02 Apr 2009, 01:09 AM   #18083 / #25
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I've been reading them for weeks. Coming from a school district in PA that is near Dover, I have a vested interest in seeing how this whole thing is handled.

I once had a local preacher show up at my classroom door with a fistful of pamphlets he wanted to 'share' with my 8th grade class about how dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

My spineless principal and science department chair refused to issue a statement supporting the Dover teachers who refused to read the statement about evolution being 'just a theory' in their classrooms.

My elderly dean wouldn't let me organize a big symposium on evolution for Darwin's 200th birthday because he 'didn't want to open that can of worms' and put people at risk (some had received anonymous death threats when speaking publicly in support of evolution).

Evolution wars are alive & well in PA, regardless of the Kitzmiller v Dover decision.
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