will not remove stickers
school board has decided to keep the district's anti-evolutionary statement
in its textbooks pending an outcome of a federal lawsuit and possible
help from a conservative legal group.
By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer
===The Beebe School Board
decided Monday night that evolution disclaimer stickers will stay in
science books, at least for the time being.
=== A threatened lawsuit by the American
Civil Liberties Union has brought to light the stickers, which board
members say they didn't know existed. But now that they know and they
know the ACLU intends to sue if they don't remove them, they will wait
for the outcome of an appeal of a federal case that was fuel for the
ACLU's demand that the stickers be removed immediately.
=== They also want to wait and see if a
conservative, Washington, D.C.-based organization, the American Center
for Law and Justice, will be able to defend them in the event of a lawsuit
by the ACLU. "Get us some more information," board member Lorrie Belew
told Dr. Kieth Williams, school superintendent.
===A federal judge in Georgia ruled in
mid-January that evolution disclaimer stickers in science books in Cobb
County School District had to be immediately removed. The stickers said:
"Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.
This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully
and critically considered."
=== The school district is appealing the
federal court's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The sticker
on science books at Beebe beginning with the fourth grade goes further
than the Georgia sticker, saying that some people think it makes more
sense to consider an "intelligent designer" was responsible for life,
which the ACLU says is violation of the First Amendment separation of
church and state.
=== The school board made its decision
to wait and see before a full house at the intermediate school library.
Board meetings are often attended only by the board, a handful of principals
and other administrators and two or three reporters. But present at
the Monday night meeting were such notables as Bob Hall, pastor of First
Baptist Church in Beebe; Jim Wooten, business owner and chairman of
the Beebe Economic Development Commission; and Donald Ward, mayor of
Beebe and a history teacher at the high school.
=== Board member Tommy Vana-man said the
next morning that if research shows the school district is violating
some federal law by placing the stickers in the science books, the board
will take them out. "If it's just because the ACLU wants them out, that's
a different story," Vanaman said.
=== So far, he said, no one on the board
has been able to determine through the information they've researched
what, if anything, federal law says about affixing stickers to textbooks
questioning the validity of evolution as it pertains to the origin of
life or the change of one life form into another or promoting the concept
of an "intelligent designer."
=== In the meantime, the ACLU has already
put out a press release that was picked up by the National Center for
Science Education (a California organization dedicated to keeping evolution
in science classrooms and "scientific creationism" out) that said the
school district would take the stickers out of the text books.
=== That press release was based on a letter
to the ACLU from Paul Blume, the school district's attorney that said
the district would remove the stickers at the end of the school year.
However, at the time the letter was written, board members say they
hadn't reached a decision. They only wanted an extension to the two-week
deadline the ACLU gave them to remove the stickers.
=== "Following action by the American Civil
Liberties Union of Arkansas, the Beebe School District today agreed
to remove stickers it had placed in science textbooks undermining the
validity of evolution and introducing the religious concept of an "intelligent
designer" behind the origin of life," said the press release dated Feb.
10. "After receiving complaints about the stickers from community members,
the ACLU wrote a letter to the superintendent of the school district
demanding that the stickers be removed."
=== ACLU of Arkansas executive director
Rita Sklar said in the press release, "We commend the Beebe School District
for avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation in this matter.
=== However, we are concerned that these
stickers may be present in textbooks around the state, as they are the
latest attempt to undermine science and bring creationism back into
public schools. We would be happy to talk to the Arkansas Department
of Education to provide legal guidance on this issue."
=== Contacted Tuesday, Sklar said that
since the board took no vote and therefore no official position on removing
the stickers, she still believes they will be removed.
=== "I am inclined to take the word
of the attorney for the district," she said. The Arkansas Department
of Education appears to take no position on the stickers. Gail Potter,
assistant director for Academic Standards and Assessments, said the
state requires school districts to teach certain frameworks but would
not comment on the stickers because of the possible litigation.
=== Dr. Kieth Williams, superintendent
at Beebe Schools, said on Tuesday that the state does not come out for
or against the stickers. The proponents of "intelligent design" say
the theory is not the same as "creationism," which has been banned from
public schools by the Supreme Court.
=== Neither is it based on the Bible according
to the Center for Science and Culture, a program of the Discovery Institute,
a Seattle-based think tank which works as hard to promote the theory
as the National Center for Science Education works to promote evolution.
===The NCSE says, "The theory of intelligent
design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things
are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process
such as natural selection. "The intellectual roots of intelligent design
theory are varied. Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions
of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science."