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Pro-science group warns of textbook challenge in Nassau County schools

The challenge targets the teaching of evolution.
[Photo illustration | istockphoto.com]
Published Nov. 14, 2017
Updated Nov. 15, 2017

As lawmakers debated a bill last spring to make it easier to challenge school instructional materials, members of Florida Citizens for Science cautioned the measure would lead to a battle over evolution — a standard the state narrowly adopted in 2008.

Bill backers suggested the worry was misplaced.

They pointed out the legislation spelled out that valid challenges would be based on whether the materials contained pornography, or were not grade-level appropriate or "suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend."

Now the Florida Citizens for Science is hoping the Nassau County school district follows that language. In a recent blog post, the group noted that a Nassau resident filed a textbook complaint based almost exclusively on questioning the veracity of the theory of evolution.

The complaint, obtained by Florida Citizens for Science, is plain in its intent:

"My request to the Nassau County Board of Education is that we stop promoting this scientifically inadequate theory of evolution as fact to our students. We should no longer purchase books teaching evolution as proven scientific fact or books that present evolution as proven fact. Until the current books wear out, I propose placing a disclaimer sticker in the front of every textbook that promotes or presents evolution as proven fact."

The district was supposed to schedule time to discuss the concerns. Its legal counsel, to whom calls were directed, did not respond to messages from the Gradebook.

Florida Citizens for Science was hopeful.

"I can't imagine this actually impacting the textbooks there, but you never know," blog author Brandon Haught wrote.

He predicted this wouldn't be the last debate, either: "This is merely the first challenge. I guarantee more are to come in other counties."

UPDATE (11/15/17): Ray Poole, the Nassau district's legal counsel, told the Gradebook on Wednesday that an independent local attorney recently conducted a hearing on the book challenge and is preparing a summary to present to the School Board.

Poole expected the board to consider the challenge at its December meeting. It is likely to take up a proposed rule on how to conduct future textbook challenges, in light of the new law, at that same meeting.

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