Responding to advocacy by the ACLU-WA and local parents, Burlington-Edison School District has directed a teacher not to teach creationism in his science class. At its September meeting, the school board backed a decision by Superintendent Rick Jones that a science teacher could no longer teach creationism in the guise of "intelligent design theory" in biology lessons. "We’re going to stick to the teaching of science," Jones told the Skagit Valley Herald.
A ninth-grade biology teacher at Burlington-Edison High School had side-stepped the district-approved curriculum on evolution and instead used materials from Of Pandas and People, a pro-creationism textbook which had not been approved by the district. The book promotes the religiously based idea that natural phenomena were created by an "intelligent designer" than by random evolutionary processes.
The ACLU-WA first contacted the school district in 1997 to remind them that teachers may not promote their own religious views to students and to urge that the teacher’s handling of evolution be monitored. We continued to work with district parents and the National Center for Science Education to make sure the district heard loud and clear that teaching religion in science classes is unacceptable.
Although the courts have said clearly that religious doctrines cannot be taught as science, advocates of creationism continue in efforts to inject their faith-based teachings into public school science curricula. Their current tactic is to assert that creationism is an "alternative scientific theory" that must be taught as balance to evolution. This attempt flies in the face of science, which accepts that evolution is a key underpinning of modern biology, as well as the restriction on religious instruction in public schools. The Washington State Constitution (Article IX, Section 4) states unequivocally that, "All schools maintained or supported wholly or in part by the public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence." Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences said that evolution must be an essential part of science instruction and issued a guidebook to assist educators in teaching it.
The ACLU-WA has provided extensive information to a Washington resident who has constructed a Web site on efforts to have creationism taught in our state’s public schools. Organized with a handy atlas of counties, it can be accessed at www.eskimo.com/~pierres/atlas/.