Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ohio High Court Hears Oral Arguments On Fired Science Teacher's Rights

The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments (video of full arguments) in Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education.  In the case, a state appeals court upheld the firing of John Freshwater, a middle school school science teacher. The school board based the firing on Freshwater's injecting his religious views, including belief in Creationism, into the classroom and for insubordination in failing to remove certain religious materials from the classroom after being ordered to do so by the school board. (See prior posting.) The oral argument preview posted by the Ohio Supreme Court describes the question at issue as follows:
Did the firing of a public school teacher for violating a school district policy that prohibits teachers from distributing extracurricular materials of a religious nature to students in the classroom or endorsing the beliefs or principles of any religion in the course of instructing students violate the teacher’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
AP and the Columbus Dispatch, reporting on yesterday's oral arguments, said that the Justices particularly questioned David Kane Smith, attorney for the school's insurance company, who argued the case for the school board.