IMAGE: CROSS ON STUDENT ARM
AP
In this photo released by the school district in  Mount Vernon, Ohio, a student with a branded cross on his arm is shown.
updated 6/20/2008 6:14:24 PM ET 2008-06-20T22:14:24

A school board in central Ohio voted Friday to move ahead on firing a science teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs in class and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

The Mount Vernon school board voted 5-0 to pass a resolution of intent to terminate the contract of middle school teacher John Freshwater.

Board attorney David Millstone said Freshwater is entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal. A lawyer for Freshwater said he will request such a hearing.

A report by independent investigators found that Freshwater also taught creationism in his science class and was insubordinate in failing to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom.

School board members gathered a day after consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc. released its report. The community is about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.

The report comes one week after a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

They're family values, friend says
Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"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," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Several students interviewed by investigators described Freshwater, who has been employed by the district for 21 years, as a great guy.

But Lynda Weston, the district's director of teaching and learning, told investigators that she has dealt with complaints about Freshwater for much of her 11-year term at the district, the report said.

Science tool used to make crosses
A former superintendent, Jeff Maley, said he tried to find another position for Freshwater but couldn't because he was certified only in science, the report said.

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students' arms in December, the report said. 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.

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

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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