Beebe will not remove stickers

The 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."