Lawmakers in South Dakota are pushing a bill that would allow teachers to address the supposed “weaknesses” in the scientific theories of evolution and global warming.
The bill, which is described as academic freedom legislation, would free up teachers from interference by state or local education officials, reported the Argus Leader.
Similar measures have been proposed in Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and Tennessee passed an academic freedom law in 2012.
The legislation is based on suggestions by the Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design instead of evolution.
The measure proposed in South Dakota does not advance intelligent design or creationism, but it would allow teachers to question accepted scientific theories.
“It provides cover, for, as you might say, rogue teachers,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education. “We know most teachers won’t do this, but we know that there are some.”
Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre), who co-authored the bill, said teachers would be permitted to address intelligent design or creationism only if local officials approved those topics.
“It’s purely local control,” Monroe said. “It just offers the possibility that there will be complete, open discourse.”
A spokesman for the Discovery Institute denied the organization supported teaching or promoting intelligent design in public schools, and he said the bill would not protect teachers who present creationism to students.
He said the group’s model legislation simply offers a shield for teachers who question the science of evolution or climate change.
“Schools should teach the evidence for and against evolution,” Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the organization.
A science teacher from Mitchell, South Dakota, said she can’t imagine a debate on the basic principles of biological science.
“I don’t know what their arguments would be,” said Julie Olson, president of the South Dakota Science teachers Association. “What’s the proof?”