Several school board members want to include creationism, a controversial issue that has raged in public education for decades, in classroom instruction in the Springboro schools.
In 2011, board President Kelly Kohls proposed the district offer creationism as suplemental instruction during discussions. The issue was shelved then for lack of a voting majority and in the face of opposition that seemed likely to lead to a legal battle.
But now, the district is poised to restart the debate as part of a proposed policy to deal with controversial issues in classrooms.
Sex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change and sustainable development also would be issues deemed appropriate for discussion in Springboro classrooms, according to the proposed policy.
On Wednesday, Rigano said he sees the revision as “an attempt to ensure we’re not indoctrinating one point of view or another.”
“What we’ve done is begin a list,” Rigano added. “We’re pointing out evolution is a controversial issue.”
The proposal, posted for a month at the board web site, is set for a first reading and discussion at today’s Springboro Board of Education meeting.
“Schools may teach about controversial topics and may debate controversial topics in classrooms,” Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, said in an email. “Currently, though, Ohio’s science standards teach evolution.”
Kohls and Petroni did not return calls. Rigano and Petroni were elected in 2012 on a ticket espousing the same values. Kohls has been outspoken in support of bringing creationism into district classrooms.
“Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country,” Kohls, also head of the Warren County Tea Party, said in 2011. “It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country.”
Springboro Board Member Don Miller said he would vote against the policy if creationism was in it. The fifth board member, Wendy Kull, could not be reached.
Teaching evolution has been a controversial issue across the U.S., including in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kansas, New Hampshire and Texas.
The American Civil Liberties Union has argued that bringing creationism into classrooms would violate constitutional separation of church and schools.
In January, a study of 900 biology teachers done at the University of Minnesota and published in the journal Science found only 28 percent of biology teachers focused entirely on evolution, as recommended by the National Research Council, while 13 percent advocated for creationism and devoted classtime to its study.
The Ohio Board of Education has yet to officially consider bringing creationism into classrooms, Board Member Jeffrey Mims said.
“Fortunately this has not been one of our issues,” he said.
Devoting discussion to creationism in the classroom diverts educators from focusing on important issues and faces long odds in winning consensus, Mims said.
“When you mix the two together, you lose any chance of satisfying anyone,” said Mims, a former school board member in Dayton. ”
In Springboro, opposition to the proposed policy change is expected from members of Parents from Springboro United for Responsible Education, a group formed to combat the proposed policy changes and back teachers in ongoing contract negotiations.
“I’m not sure why they would even offer creationism in our public schools. It seems like it’s a bit of a conflict to me,” Jenny Nijak, a member of the Parents from Springboro United for Responsible Education said.
Springboro School Board Meeting
7 p.m., Thursday
Springboro High School
1675 S. Main Street, Springboro
For information, 937-748-3960