Dover PA, Intelligent design voted in
Intelligent design voted in
As now written, Dover Area science curriculum will require the theory to be taught, said a biology teacher.
The Dover Area School Board voted to add “Intelligent Design Theory” to the district’s biology curriculum Monday evening just two weeks after Supt. Richard Nilsen assured former board member Lonnie Langione that wouldn’t happen.The change passed by a six-to-three margin after a heated discussion by the board and a dozen members of the community.
By JOSEPH MALDONADO, For the Daily Record/Sunday News, Tuesday, October 19, 2004
During the Oct. 4 board meeting, Langione asked Nilsen if teachers would be required to teach “intelligent design,” after he allowed 50 copies of the book “Of Pandas and People,” published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, to be used in science classrooms as reference books.
“No,” replied Nilsen at the time. “A teacher can, but is not required.”
But during Monday’s meeting, district biology teacher Jen Miller said the new curriculum wording implies that she will be required to teach “intelligent design.”
The new wording in the curriculum states: “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught.”
For more than an hour, outgoing board member Noel Wenrich tried to amend the wording in an effort to remove the words, “intelligent design.” But through each of his four attempts, his motions failed.
Voting to approve the final version were William Buckingham, Alan Bonsell, Sheila Harkins, Heather Geesey, Jane Cleaver and Angie Yingling. Voting against it were Wenrich, Carol Brown and Jeff Brown.
At the end of the meeting, a tearful Carol Brown read a statement before resigning from the board. She said that on more than one occasion she had been asked if she were, “born again,” referring to the Christian term for salvation.
“No one has — nor should have — the right to ask that of a fellow board member,” she read. “An individual’s religious beliefs should have no impact on his or her ability to serve as a school board director.”
Eleven members of the community spoke before the vote with only one, Eric Riddle, encouraging the board to include “intelligent design” in the curriculum.
“It may cost us a little money to do what’s right,” Riddle said, referring to potential lawsuits that may ensue. “But maybe someday, I can feel good about putting my kids in this district.”
Riddle currently homeschools his children.
Lawsuits were a fear of just about everyone speaking against the curriculum change. Buckingham said if a lawsuit were brought against the district, a firm would provide free representation for the district. But for the second meeting in a row, he did not mention the firm.
The district solicitor was not at the meeting.
Carol Brown said that just because a firm mentioned by Buckingham might be willing to represent the board, doesn’t mean they would represent faculty members. She said if faculty asked, they would be entitled to representation from the district solicitor, Stock and Leader.
“If they requested Stock and Leader, they (the faculty) should be fired,” said board member Heather Geesey. “They agreed to the book and the changes in curriculum.”
But Miller and science department head Bertha Spahr said Geesey’s statement wasn’t true. Spahr said the faculty only agreed to the ‘Pandas’ book as a compromise to address Buckingham’s concern that students have alternate materials to study in addition to their regular text.
Spahr also said that not only did her department not approve the new wording, they were not invited to help write it.
“We didn’t know you were going to do this,” she said.
The administration said it too did not support the change as it was written. The board recommended something very similar that did not include any reference to “intelligent design.”
After the meeting ended, Wenrich, who in addition to Jane Cleaver, also resigned two weeks ago but for personal reasons, had a short shouting match with Buckingham who had challenged people’s literacy, knowledge of American history and patriotism throughout the night.
“During my resignation speech, I said we needed to disagree without being nasty,” he said. “But nasty is what we got.”