Ohio board upholds science plan; could face lawsuit
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
By a 9-8 vote, the Ohio Board of Education retained a science lesson plan that allows for the critical analysis of evolution yesterday, holding open the door for teaching intelligent design in Ohio's 10th grade classrooms.
Board member Martha W. Wise of Avon introduced a motion to eliminate the controversial plan. She said her concerns with keeping the plan involved the similarities between Ohio's plan and curriculum history and that of Dover, Pa.
A federal court found the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution unconstitutional in a case against the Dover Area School District in December.
Intelligent design holds that the Earth and all living beings came about from an intelligent creator and did not come into existence by chance.
The Ohio and Dover plans used similar language and both boards had discussed the infusion of a "higher power" into the science curricula, Wise said.
The board had only learned recently that their own science staff had called the Ohio lesson plan a lie and had identified major criticisms of all five aspects of the plan, she said.
She also said the Ohio board "could very well be taken to court, costing us dollars that could go to educating Ohio's children."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been collecting documents from the board under a public records request. Americans United is the group that joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and Dover students' parents to bring the lawsuit against the school district.
"Take us to court," said Michael Cochran, a board member from Blacklick. "Dover is not a precedent for Ohio."
Cochran expressed concern that if the board were to eliminate the lesson plan by passing Wise's motion, they would violate the "regular review of lessons in the normal rotation in the regular course of events."
Board member G.R. (Sam) Schloemer of Cincinnati also said he wanted to go to court.
"I hope that (Americans United) will take it to court and decide the issue for us," he said.
Cochran said he did not think Americans United would sue the board, for fear they would lose and set a bad precedent.
Cincinnati board member Eric C. Okerson said that since he joined the board, he could count the number of e-mails regarding board issues he had received on one hand. In the past few days, however, he had received 100 on evolution and intelligent design.
The Ohio case would be much more difficult than Dover, Okerson said.
"(The lesson plan) is not science based and therefore it's not a matter of opinion," said Jane Sonenshein, a Loveland board member.
Several members said that both the American and Ohio Academies of Science had sent the board letters objecting to the science curriculum. Seventeen nationally recognized science and academic organizations had done so.
Several Ohio State professors and students were on hand to address the board, but their participation was held until the end of the meeting, after the vote had been taken.
Testy exchanges occurred between Jeffrey K. McKee, an OSU anthropology professor, and board member Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield.
McKee, speaking as the chairman of the OSU Senate's government relations committee, said, "Before my son is in the 10th grade, one way or another, this lesson plan will be gone either by lawsuit or by your doing the right thing."