24 Mar 2011

Biology teacher in Illinois public high school caught promoting creationism to discredit evolution

Chicago Tribune   -  March 8, 2011

Libertyville High School science teacher cited creationism, officials confirm

'Steps have been taken' to assure the practice stops, school says

By Amy Alderman, Tribune reporter

Libertyville High School officials have confirmed that a teacher was referencing creationism in a science classroom, and said steps have been taken to ensure the religious views are eliminated from the curriculum.

Community High School District 128 administrators were responding to comments during a recent school board meeting, where Buffalo Grove-based activist Rob Sherman said he had been contacted by a student's older sibling. The student had complained that a biology and human genetics teacher, Beau Schaefer, had been promoting creationist beliefs and attempting to discredit evolution, Sherman said.

"A teacher is teaching that creationism and intelligent design is more relevant than evolution," Sherman said. "You cannot compare and contrast creationism and evolution in a public classroom. If the facts bear out that he is teaching this, I'm asking you to determine the appropriate response. Maybe you need to get someone else in there to 'un-teach' everything Mr. Schaefer has taught them."

Sherman, who is also working to garner support for a state law repealing the required moment of silence in public schools, said he raised the issue in District 128 out of the concern that young minds may be influenced by an authority figure.

"I am expressing grave concern and frustration that this is going on in a class," Sherman said. "There's a perception among students that it's OK if a teacher is doing something in a classroom."

Sherman contends that, for example, in a quiz supposedly assigned by Schaefer, some questions lead students to creationist beliefs, pushing them toward the notion that evolution is not scientific. That goes against the Illinois State Board of Education's 11th-grade science assessment framework, Sherman said.

On Tuesday, Libertyville High School administrators said they had spoken with Schaefer and determined that creationism was being taught in his classroom.

"The administration looked into the matter and found that one LHS science teacher was referencing creationism in a unit on evolution," said Mary Todoric, director of communications. "Steps have been taken to ensure that this teacher will no longer use creationism as part of his classroom instruction. Furthermore, the district has taken appropriate steps to ensure that all science teachers are not referencing or teaching creationism."

District 128 officials would not comment on whether there has been any disciplinary action.

Schaefer did not return several phone calls.

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