Public Schools

A new W.Va. law could undermine sound science education in public schools

  Rob Boston

West Virginia legislators have passed an unnecessary piece of legislation that could gum up sound science education in the state.

As originally introduced last year, the bill was much more straightforward about its aims: It sought to allow the state’s science teachers to offer instruction about “intelligent design” creationism (ID.)

Teaching ID in public schools is unconstitutional

The problem is, that’s clearly unconstitutional. Americans United and its allies won a landmark federal court ruling against the teaching of ID in the public schools of Dover, Pa., in 2005. Perhaps aware that pushing ID in public schools could land schools in court, West Virginia lawmakers in the House of Delegates rejected a similar bill last year.

But earlier this year, its sponsor, state Sen. Amy Grady (R-Mason), retooled the bill by removing direct references to intelligent design. It now states that “no local school board, school superintendent, or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from students about scientific theories of how the universe and/or life came to exist.”

This version has passed both chambers of the legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice (R).

ID is not legitimate science

ID is not a legitimate scientific theory, but that doesn’t mean some teachers won’t try to use this legislation as an excuse to teach it. Proponents of the idea, which posits that humans were designed by an intelligent force (that is, God), insist that ID is scientific despite the complete lack of evidence for it. They’ll use this legislation to slip ID into science classes. Grady has admitted as much.

Andrew L. Seidel, AU’s vice president of strategic communications, has made a short video outlining the threat of this legislation, and AU’s Policy Department joined the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia in a letter to state House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, warning him of the bill’s defects. Take a look at both and get educated because we might see bills like this in other states. If you live in West Virginia and learn of ID being taught in schools, get in touch with us.

America’s public school students deserve sound science education, not religious views masquerading as science. Americans United has banished ID from science classes in the past. We’d be happy to do it again.

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The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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