The American Civil Liberties Union this week warned school officials in Ohio not to adopt policies that advanced creationism in the classroom.
“It’s the job of families, not public schools to educate children on spiritual values,” said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Drew Dennis. “It is irresponsible for schools to repeatedly waste resources designing these types of unconstitutional policies.”
The Springboro Community City School District is considering a policy (PDF) that would encourage students to “think critically” about “controversial” issues like evolution, abortion, climate change, UN Agenda 21 and sustainable development. The policy directs teachers to fully explore “all sides” of these issues.
“The role of the teacher in the presentation of assigned issues is vitally important,” the policy states. “All sides of the issue should be given to the students in a dispassionate manner. The goal is for the students to be taught to think clearly on all matters of importance, and to make decisions in the light of all the material that has been presented or can be researched on the issues.”
The proposal presumably requires teachers to bring up creationism during discussions of evolution and conservative conspiracy theories regarding the United Nations when discussing environmental initiatives.
“This policy appears to explicitly permit the teaching of creationism because ‘evolution’ is on the ‘controversial issues’ list and equal facts for the opposing viewpoint means classroom time spent on the religious theory of intelligent design (or creation science),” ACLU legal director James L. Hardiman explained in a letter (PDF) to the school board. “It has been firmly established that this practice is unconstitutional, in violation of the Establishment Clause.”
Kelly Kohls, Springboro Community City Schools board president, said the policy change was only meant to encourage discussion and educate students.
“There’s a lot of controversy over other issues, but these are kind of the big ones that we want to allow people to talk about it in the classroom,” she told WLWT.
But some parents are skeptical.
“I think this school board likes to play politics and likes to play games,” David Bowman told 2 News. “This is merely a means for them to introduce their specific ideology. I don’t think they’re at all interested in teaching our kids critical thinking”
It is not the first the the ACLU has spoken out against efforts advance creationism in the school district. In 2011, the ACLU told Springboro Community City School District officials they would face a lawsuit if they included creationism in the curriculum (PDF).
[Intelligent design in school via Shutterstock]