Parents in Florida may now challenge how topics like evolution and climate change are taught in schools, with a new law forcing school boards to hire an “unbiased learning officer” who will listen to complaints and take on state textbooks that were called “too liberal.”
The law was signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott and went into effect on July 1, the official start of the new academic year. The law officially cites “pornographic material” and other concerns, but the group that pushed for its passage has said publicly that science curricula would be the real target, Salon reported.
As the report noted, the law was pushed largely by a group called Florida Citizens Alliance that complained about state-approved school textbooks being “too liberal” while other backers have already taken aim at evolution being taught in schools. One of the early complainants argued that creationism should be taught alongside evolution, noting that “the two main theories on the origin of man are the theory of evolution and creationism.”
Many had protested against the law as it was making its way through Florida’s legislature. In May, Motherboard reported that the new law would give parents the ability to have evolution or climate change essentially stricken from textbooks at great expense to school districts.
The report cited Brendan Haught, the communication director for Florida Citizens for Science and a national advocate for science education. Haught said that this law could be used to push topics out of schools entirely.
“Haught worries the requirement to hold a public hearing over complaints could drag out the time-sensitive process of buying new texts for the school year,” the report noted. “That could even lead people with religious agendas or anti-evidence beliefs to ‘bully’ a school board to include texts that cast doubt on climate change, for example, just to meet the deadline, he added.”
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) July 3, 2017
New FL law lets any resident challenge what's taught in science classes, could be used to target evolution and more. https://t.co/EAqHpdDdNL
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 2, 2017
Proponents of science education are alarmed at the new law and have called for vigilance against calls to have climate change or evolution removed from textbooks. In a blog post, Haught warned people to “keep an eye on your local school board and everyone who brings forth a complaint about textbooks.”
“If you don’t, we truly lose. At this point the fight is at the local level,” he wrote (via Salon). “If you’re not there and willing to stand up for sound science education, then we’re done.”
Florida may not be the only state gearing up to remove evolution or climate change from textbooks. As Motherboard noted, across the country there are 11 other bills so far this year taking aim at how evolution and climate change are taught in schools.
[Featured Image by lucamato/iStock]