Educators and science advocates warn a new law can be used to target evolution and climate change education.
A new Florida law has education advocates worried that it will make it more difficult to teach evolution and climate change in public schools.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill allowing anyone to challenge what children learn in Florida public schools, even if they don’t have a child enrolled in the school system.
As The Washington Post reports, that legislation – which goes into effect on Saturday – “requires school boards to hire an “unbiased hearing officer” who will handle complaints about instructional materials, such as movies, textbooks and novels, that are used in local schools. Any parent or county resident can file a complaint, regardless of whether they have a student in the school system. If the hearing officer deems the challenge justified, he or she can require schools to remove the material in question.”
Continuing, The Washington Post adds that: “The statute includes general guidelines about what counts as grounds for removal: belief that the material is ‘pornographic’ or ‘is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group.'”
While proponents of the new bill claim that the new law gives parents greater say in what their children learn in school, affidavits filed by supporters of the bill tell a different story.
The Washington Post cites two affidavits, writing:
One affidavit from a Collier County resident complained that evolution and global warming were taught as “reality.” Another criticized her child’s sixth-grade science curriculum, writing that “the two main theories on the origin of man are the theory of evolution and creationism,” and that her daughter had only been taught about evolution.
Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the National Council for Science Education, is quoted by The Washington Post as stating: “It’s just the candor with which the backers of the bill have been saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go after evolution, we’re going to go after climate change.'”
Noting that “Based on the affidavits, it seems likely that the law will also be used to request the removal of library books that parents find objectionable,” The Washington Post concludes their article reporting that:
A group called Florida Citizens for Science urged people keep an eye on challenges to school instructional materials in the coming year.
“At this point the fight is at the local level,” the group’s communication director, Brandon Haught, wrote in a blog post. “If you’re not there and willing to stand up for sound science education, then we’re done.”