"Controversial issues" legislation in Arizona

Arizona's House Bill 2002, which would prohibit teachers from taking a stand on "any side of a controversial issue," would apparently affect science education.

If enacted, the bill would require the state board of education to adopt rules that "prohibit teachers in taxpayer-supported schools from engaging in political, ideological[,] or religious advocacy in their classrooms." In particular, teachers would be forbidden to "advocate in a partisan manner for any side of a controversial issue. To ensure that students have the resources to make independent decisions on these issues, a teacher must provide students with materials supporting both sides of the controversy and present those views in a fair-minded and non-partisan manner."

What issues are deemed controversial? HB 2002 specifies, "For the purposes of this section, 'controversial issue' means an issue that is a point in a political party platform at the local, state[,] or federal level." As NCSE's Glenn Branch observed in a series of blog posts in 2014, it is not unusual for state political parties to take a stand on evolution and supposed alternatives to it in their platforms, and the same is true of climate change. If the bill were enacted, then, it would provide a route to pressure teachers to use antievolution and/or climate change denial material in their classrooms. 

HB 2002 was prefiled on December 14, 2018, by Mark Finchem (R-District 11); Arizona's legislature convenes on January 14, 2019.

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