"Controversial issues" resolution in Virginia

A resolution in the Virginia General Assembly would urge the adoption of a code of ethics for public school teachers — with a provision that could adversely affect science education.

House Joint Resolution 684, prefiled on January 9, 2019, by Dave A. LaRock (R-District 33), is aimed primarily at preventing what it describes as "political or ideological indoctrination." But a provision of the proposed code would prohibit teachers from advocating "for any issue that is part of a political party platform at the national, state, or local 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 resolution were enacted, then, it would provide a route to pressure teachers to use antievolution and/or climate change denial material in their classrooms. 

A similar bill, House Bill 2002, was recently prefiled in the Arizona legislature. According to the Phoenix New Times (January 3, 2019), the Arizona bill was modeled on a proposed code of ethics from "the Stop K-12 Indoctrination campaign, a project sponsored by the far-right, anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center ... which intends for legislators to introduce the organization's code of ethics in their respective statehouses." The New Times notes that the Stop K-12 Indoctrination campaign promoted LaRock's introduction of House Joint Resolution 117 — virtually identical to HJR 684 — in the Virginia General Assembly in 2018; the resolution subsequently died in the House Rules Committee.

The legislature began its session on January 9, 2019, and is scheduled to adjourn on February 23, 2019; HJR 684 has not yet been referred to a committee.