Almost three years after an Ohio science teacher used a Tesla coil to burn a cross into the arm of a middle-school student, the convoluted case has finally come to a conclusion.
A federal judge last week approved the settlement agreement between the family of the burned student and teacher John Freshwater.
The debacle first began in December 2007 when Zachary Dennis came home from school with a burn mark on his arm in the shape of a cross. His parents Jenifer and Stephen visited the school, looking for answers. When they felt they didn’t get them, they filed suit against both the Mt. Vernon School District and Freshwater. In addition to their complaint about their son’s injuries, they also referred to an independent investigator’s report that said that Freshwater had been using class time to witness to students, teaching intelligent design and displaying numerous Christian materials around the classroom for more than a decade. The district settled with the family in July 2009, but the settlement with Freshwater had dragged on, due to Freshwater and his attorney’s obfuscation and refusal to produce evidence.
I’ve written about this case numerous times, most recently, here, here, and here. This case has been incredibly divisive to the Mt. Vernon community. Freshwater has long tried to present himself as a victim of religious persecution, arguing disingenuously that the issue was over his refusal to remove his bible from his desk. Many religious conservatives in the community sided with him and accused the Dennis family lying about their son’s injuries.
According to the Mt. Vernon News:
With Judge Hoover’s ruling last Tuesday, the suit against Freshwater was officially settled. The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer, and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary.
Let’s hope that the resolution puts all this ugliness to rest.