Pinellas School Board candidate Ken Peluso said Friday he doesn't support teaching creationism in public schools, despite comments he made during a public forum.
He was caught off guard and gave a "quick response without thinking," he said.
During a candidate forum held by the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg, Peluso was asked Thursday if he favored teaching creationism. If so, would he allow it to be taught during a science class? He said, "I think creationism and evolution should be taught side by side and I don't care what classroom."
He said students should "know the facts" and decide for themselves.
"In hindsight, that was probably a poor choice of words in response to a question that caught me off guard," he said Friday. "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with it."
Florida's science standards, which were adopted in 2008, call evolution the "fundamental concept underlying all of biology" and say it is "supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." Creationism is not in the state standards, despite a previous effort to include it.
Peluso, a retired chiropractor and former chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas, was the first candidate to get the question Thursday and the only one to say yes. His two opponents for the District 4 seat, Beverley Billiris, former mayor of Tarpon Springs, and John Nygren, a retired math teacher, said no. So did candidates in the other four School Board races.
Peluso said Friday that the debate between creationism and evolution is "probably the most controversial education issue of all time." Despite his comments, he said he wouldn't teach creationism alongside evolution in a science class. He could see a place for it in a world religion class with other views, he said.
Since making the comments, Peluso said he has given some thought to the motto of the nonpartisan Suncoast Tiger Bay Club: "Carving up a politician for lunch since 1978."
"I believe I'm carved," he said.
District 4 includes most of northern Pinellas County, including Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and parts of Clearwater. Board member Robin Wikle holds the seat, but announced in February that she would resign midterm. Wikle endorsed Billiris.
The election for the nonpartisan seat is Aug. 26. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held in November.
Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at [email protected] Follow @fitz_ly.