Florida legislation (pending) on Teaching Evolution

The Sensuous Curmudgeon reports that a committee of the Florida House has approved a bill on teaching evolution, after the bill was amended in some way that has not yet been made public.

The Curmudgeon dug out a URL for the 222-page “Meeting Packet” prepared by the House Staff, which includes one version of the bill along with a proposed amendment, which may or may not be how the bill has been amended at this stage.

Linked here is an excerpt with the Teaching Evolution bill & amendment, plus the cover and contents page (for context).

Here’s how the Florida House staff analysts summarize the effects of the proposed legislation:

Effect of Proposed Changes:

Teacher’s Rights and Prescribed Curriculum:

The bill provides that every public school teacher in grades K through 12 has the “affirmative right and freedom” to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological origins.” If a teacher determines that certain information is sufficiently “scientific” and “relevant,” the teacher has a “right” to teach that material irrespective of whether such information is contrary to the curriculum adopted by the State Board of Education through the SSS [“Sunshine State Standards”] or by the school district through its instructional materials. The principal, the district school superintendent, the district school board, or the State Board of Education may disagree that the information is “scientific,” “relevant,” or “objectively present[ed];” however, that fact does not affect that teacher’s “right” to present the material. If the principal or other school district staff attempts to restrict a teacher’s ability to teach such information, or govern the manner of presentation, it appears the bill grants the teacher a cause of action to enforce the “right” granted in the bill.11

The bill, in effect, with regard only to biological or chemical evolution restricts the ability of the State Board of Education or the district school board to define and regulate curriculum content.

* * *

11See Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) (recognizing that public schools may limit classroom speech to promote educational goals), and U.S. Dep’t of Ed.-Guidelines to Religious Expression in Public Schools (May 1998) (stating that the First Amendment affords ample freedom of religious expression; however, it does not necessarily include the right for a teacher or a student to have an audience held captive or to require other students or teachers to participate or adhere to a specific doctrine), and Hazelwood Sch. Dist. V. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988), with Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 (1967) (establishing the test for whether a school may regulate a teacher’s classroom speech by determining whether the ”the regulation is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concern” and if “the school provided the teacher with notice of what conduct was prohibited.”), and Ward v. Hickey, 996 F.2d 448 (C.A.1 Mass. 1993) (finding that a teacher’s statements in class during instructional periods are part ofthe curriculum and regular class activity and thus subject to reasonable speech regulation).

– page 3 of the packet pages on this bill

Note that the interpretation by the staff analysts for the Florida House itself is dramatically more ominous than even the critical interpretation on The Panda’s Thumb.

3 Comments

  1. Posted April 13, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Holy frijole! Thanks for the comment over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub — it got me here. This is astounding.

    Who gets to decide whether the teacher made the correct determination that the material presented is scientific? While normally a court could apply the Daubert standard, this language appears, to me, to preclude a court from making such a determination on facts and perhaps expert testimony.

    In short, what the teacher says is science, is science, under this law.

    One wonders if the Florida Legislature has a clue what a litigation incubator this is, not to mention its open invitation to wingnuttery in the classroom.

  2. Posted April 14, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Poor, poor Florida……..thank goodness I’m leaving after this semester……I can’t believe this…..I’m a committed Christian, and I believe that defiling science, such as the Florida Legislation thinks of allowing, is AGAINST MY RELIGION!

    Creationism is not science, nor is intelligent design or anything else related to it. Mixing the two has grave consequences for both the sanctity of Christian beliefs and the Scriptures, as well as the truthfulness and wholeness of scientific thought and teaching.

    Leaving it up to teachers……..so what next, are we going to let art teachers teach us calculus?

    For shame, Florida, for shame.

  3. Posted April 15, 2008 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    The teacher is an employee of the state. The state decides what crosses the boundary of state and religion.

    I’m from Canada and at one point we had a teacher in Alberta brainwashing his kids with Neo-nazi conspiracy theories. If the Florida legislation were in effect up here we would not have been able to stop it.


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  1. […] version introduced in Florida was written to preclude even the state’s official science standards from curbing teachers who […]

  2. […] when Sen. Storms introduced ‘FLORIDA’S “OK TO TEACH CREATIONISM” BILL’ (which in one version would have immunized Florida teachers who wanted to teach creationism against having to adhere to the state’s Science […]

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