16 Dec 2010

Louisiana school board wants believers to teach creationism in science classes, thinks it will solve discipline problem

The Advocate - Louisiana July 24, 2010

School Board might OK teaching creationism

By VIC COUVILLION |Special to The Advocate


LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish School Board will begin exploring the possibility of incorporating the teaching of “creationism” in the public school system’s science classes.

During the board’s meeting Thursday, several board members expressed an interest in the teaching of creationism, an alternative to the study of the theory of evolution, in Livingston Parish public school classrooms.

The discussion came up during a report on the pupil progression plan for the 2010-11 school year, delivered by Jan Benton, director of curriculum.

Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes.

Board Member David Tate quickly responded: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”

Board President Keith Martin, while reminding the members that a decision had been made in the past not to teach creationism, suggested that now might be the time to re-examine the issue.

Martin said that one problem with the teaching of creationism versus evolution is that, “You don’t want two different teachers teaching two different things.”

Martin, noting that discipline of young people is constantly becoming more of a challenge for parents and teachers, agreed: “Maybe it’s time that we look at this.”

When Martin suggested that the board appoint a committee to study the possibility of introducing creationism into the classroom, his opinion met with general, if unofficial approval.

“We shouldn’t just jump into this thing, but we do need to look at it,” Martin said. “The American Civil Liberties Union and even some of our principals would not be pleased with us, but we shouldn’t worry about the ACLU. It’s more important that we do the correct thing for the children we educate.”

The board then unanimously endorsed Benton’s Progression Plan.

Before the vote, Benton presented some highlights of the lengthy document.

She told the board that for the coming school year 177 days of instruction are scheduled for all schools.

Kindergarten through eighth-grade students are expected to attend a minimum of 167 of those days, leaving each student with 10 days of unexcused absences.

The academic year for high schools is divided into two 83.5 day semesters and students are allowed five unexcused absences per semester.

Students who aspire to follow a career diploma track will have to meet a long list of requirements this year, Benton explained. She said that parents who wish to enroll their children in the career diploma program must approve of the application.

A student’s behavior record will also be one of the criteria examined before entrance into the program is approved.

At the same meeting, the board voted unanimously to name Alvin Fairburn & Associates as the architects and design specialists for improvements to the football field at Denham Springs High School.

Board Member Buddy Mincey Jr., who represents the Denham Springs area, said that installing an all-weather artificial surface on the playing field and other improvements would cost between $700,000 and $900,000.

Mincey said that the Denham Springs High School athletic department had started a fundraising campaign to assist with the cost of the new field and other improvements and that the school’s boosters have agreed to raise $200,000 for the project.

The School Board will cover the remainder of the expenses.

Mincey said that the Denham Springs High field is used by many groups and that the field “has taken a beating over the past several years.”

Improving the field is the No. 2 priority among needed improvements to Denham Springs High, Mincey said, one notch below construction of a new technology and science building.

The School Board approved construction of the technology and science building at an earlier meeting.

Mincey said that the new field and other stadium improvements should be completed by May.

This article was found at:

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/99153999.html

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Secular News Daily - August 3, 2010

FFRF hits Louisiana plan to teach creationism



Could a lawyer pressing a state-church separation case have a better ally than David Tate? Maybe not.

At a July 22 meeting of the Livingston Parish [La.] School Board, member David Tate said this: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

The comment came after the district’s curriculum director outlined the 2009 Louisiana Science Education Act, which says, in part, “A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique and review scientific theories.”

Opponents of the law see it as opening the back door just enough to let creationism slip in. After the curriculum director’s presentation, two board members said they agreed with Tate about teaching theories other than evolution in science classes.

Three area residents who contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation after the board meeting strongly disagreed that Christian creationism should be part of the curriculum. On their behalf, FFRF Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote a letter of complaint Aug. 3 to the district.

“It is unconstitutional for a public school board to include creationism in the curriculum,” Markert said, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down an older Louisiania law allowing “creation science” to be taught. The new law “would not fare any better from a constitutional standpoint,” she said.

Markert noted that board members’ positive reaction to Tate’s proposal made it clear that “considering the addition of creationism to the school district science curriculum is fueled by religious motives.”

While the Foundation was researching the case, the issue came up again in an Aug. 1 story in the Baton Rouge Advocate [ see article below] about potential legal ramifications. Quoting David Tate: “We don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation?”

Tate added, “Creationism is another thought of how things came into being. Give every theory due time” in the classroom. “We don’t all have to believe the same thing.”

The Advocate reported that board President Keith Martin said a staff committee studying the issue won’t finish its report before the fall term. “We have decided not to try to hurry up and rush something in for this year,” Martin said.

WWL-TV News headlined it like this: “No creationism in Livingston Parish schools — yet.”

Markert said the board “would do well to remember that even if Mr. Tate’s assertion is true that all members of the School Board believe in creationism, the board represents the interests of a much more diverse population within Livingston Parish. . . . Any board member who feels passionately about the merits of creationism is free to teach that viewpoint to his or her own children or to ask that it be taught in their church. The public at large need not be involved.”

Injecting religious dogma into the science curriculum under the guise of “critical thinking” is wrong and intellectually dishonest, Markert said “Dogmatic thought, in fact, is the opposite of critical thinking.”

This article was found at:

http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/2010/08/03/ffrf-hits-louisiana-plan-to-teach-creationism/

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The Advocate - Louisiana August 1, 2010

Livingston School Board: No creationism this year


By BOB ANDERSON | Advocate Florida parishes bureau


LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish School Board won’t try to include the teaching of creationism in this year’s curriculum, but has asked the School Board staff to look at the issue for possible future action, board officials said.

A decision to teach creationism could become expensive for the parish school system, said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“If they were to do it, they could anticipate that any litigation would result in them not only losing, but having to pay enormous legal fees,” she said. “They would be wasting a huge amount of taxpayer money on a battle they can’t win.”

Livingston Parish School Board President Keith Martin, who acknowledges that the parish school system faces major financial challenges, said the cost of litigation does have to be taken into consideration.

“A lawsuit is something you always have to factor in because of finances of the board,” Martin said.

The question of teaching creationism was sent to a staff committee, which is not expected to report before the beginning of this school year, but should report in time for the board to do whatever it needs to do for next year, he said.

“We have decided not to try to hurry up and rush something in for this year,” Martin said.

Martin said that a number of years ago when the issue came up, he voted against teaching creationism, but not because he didn’t want it to be taught.

He said he was concerned about whether teachers would try to introduce their own religious beliefs.

“I was worried about the curriculum,” Martin said. “I was worried about how it was going to be taught.”

How the subject would be taught has been refined since then, he said.

In making a creationism decision the board has to look at all of the information and decide what is best, he said.

“I don’t think the board would do anything if our attorney advised it was something that we couldn’t win in court, Martin said.

Tom Jones, the School Board’s attorney, said a board member brought the issue up when evolution was mentioned as being part of the state’s 2008 Science Education Act.

Jones said his previous research indicated that under the U.S. Constitution public schools can’t teach religion or the religious theory of creationism.

“Without a doubt it’s a constitutional issue,” and state law does not supersede the U.S. Constitution, he said.

Jones said he is not sure what the staff committee “will come back with, but I think it will be reasonable.”

Given the financial picture of parish schools “the worst thing we could do at this point is to get into protracted litigation,” the attorney said.

David Tate, the School Board member who brought up the matter at the board’s last meeting, said he would rather not see litigation, but added that the board gets sued on other matters.

“We don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation,” Tate said.

Tate said teaching evolution as a theory is fine, but there are other ideas.

“Creationism is another thought of how things came into being,” he said. “Give every theory due time” in the classroom.

“We don’t all have to believe the same thing,” Tate said.

“It’s a very touchy subject,” said Bill Spear, Superintendent of Livingston Parish Schools. “We as a staff will enforce whatever the board adopts.”

This article was found at:

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/99705064.html

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