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Fired Ohio teacher may have improperly sued lawyer

COLUMBUS – A science teacher accused of burning a cross on a student’s arm improperly sued a school board’s lawyer as a way to disrupt the educator’s firing, a court document alleged.

In a federal court document filed yesterday, Cleveland attorney David Millstone said he should be removed from the lawsuit filed in June by eighth-grade teacher John Freshwater against Mount Vernon City Schools.

Millstone said he was included in the lawsuit to pressure the school board to settle their attempt to fire Freshwater.

The Mount Vernon school board fired Freshwater last year, citing an internal investigation that found he had preached his Christian beliefs in class. He was accused of using a scientific device to burn a cross onto a student’s arm and of keeping a Bible on his desk.

Freshwater argued that other teachers were permitted to keep Bibles on their desks. He has said that he never branded or burned anyone.

A June 9 letter sent by Freshwater’s attorney to Mount Vernon attempting to settle the lawsuit contained a ‘veiled threat’ to force Millstone out of representing the school board, the filing said.

‘It will be interesting to observe the developments between Mr. Millstone’s representation and the interests of the Mount Vernon City School System,’ said the letter from Freshwater’s attorney, Kelly Hamilton.

Hamilton did not immediately return messages left yesterday seeking comment.

Including Millstone in Freshwater’s civil rights lawsuit was wrong because he was simply representing the school board, said Millstone’s attorney, Gregory Scott. He has asked a judge to remove Millstone from the lawsuit and award him attorney’s fees.

‘The claim against Mr. Millstone appears to be a pressure tactic aimed at the administrative process to terminate Mr. Freshwater’s contract,’ Scott said in an interview yesterday.

In the $1 million lawsuit against the district, Freshwater said his free speech and civil rights were violated.

Freshwater also said he was harassed because of his religion, defamed and suffered from a hostile work environment.

He was ready to settle the lawsuit immediately after it was filed, according to the June 9 letter to the school board’s attorneys.

‘Mr. Freshwater is ready to get on with his life if the timing and terms are appealing,’ Hamilton wrote in the letter.

Sarah Moore, an attorney for the school board, said yesterday she couldn’t comment on settlement talks.

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