Teachers in a Pennsylvania school district are refusing to obey a new policy that requires them to read a one-minute statement at the beginning of biology classes explaining evolution is a theory that continues to be tested and informs students of alternatives, such as intelligent design.
The Dover Area School District’s board-approved policy was allowed to proceed after the American Civil Liberties Union decided this week not to file a temporary restraining order to block it.
Superintendent Dr. Richard Nilsen announced that administration officials will read the statement instead, in an apparent effort to avoid a clash with faculty.
Nilsen’s memo stated: “While the Dover Area School District believes that the DASD faculty has no right to ‘opt-out’ of any policy or curriculum developed legally and publicly by the Dover Area School District Board of Directors, the administration, pending final resolution of the legal matter of Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District School Board, will communicate to the Biology students the four-paragraph curriculum statement.”
The memo further stated, “This accommodation must be understood within the context of current legal action and not set precedent for other current or future professional actions.”
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, representing the Dover Area School Board, called the teachers’ reaction a “tempest in a teapot.”
“It is ironic that this policy was enacted with the input of the very teachers who are now attempting to sabotage it,” he said. “However, in order not to be distracted from the real issues involved, the administration will deliver the one-minute four paragraph statement instead.”
The ACLU, along with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, filed a federal lawsuit in December arguing intelligent design theory is inherently religious.
Wednesday, the ACLU notified a federal judge in Pennsylvania that it would not go forward with a temporary restraining order to block the policy, which will be carried out Jan. 13 with the beginning of ninth-grade biology classes.
The ACLU made its decision after reviewing documents, board-meeting minutes and several depositions of board members and the superintendent.
The lawsuit will continue with a trial later this year, but Thompson said the ACLU’s unwillingness to procede with a temporary restraining order is telling.
“Right now, it’s clear the ACLU is re-evaluating the case and now looks at it as a more complex matter,” he told WorldNetDaily.
Teachers will still teach and test on the theory of evolution according to Pennsylvania Academic Standards, but students will now be told they can find out more information about intelligent design through a book available in the school library titled “Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins.”
The theory of intelligent design, endorsed by a growing number of credentialed scientists, says the best way to explain complex, information-rich structures observed by biologists is by the existence of a designer. Unlike creationism, however, intelligent design limits its scope to empirical observation and does not identify the designer.
The Pennsylvania school district is the first in the country to require teachers to make students aware of the controversy surrounding evolution while specifically referring to the theory of intelligent design as an alternative.
The Dover school board voted 6-3 in October to adopt the new policy.