A Louisiana board bans creationism

The Orleans Parish School Board "OK'd policies that prohibit the teaching of creationism or so-called 'intelligent design' in its half-dozen direct-run schools, or the purchasing of textbooks that promulgate those perspectives," according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (December 18, 2012). As specified in the documents for the board's December 18, 2012, meeting, the new policies provide (PDF, pp. 100 and 101), in part, that no "science textbook [shall] be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories" and that "[no] teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."

Why were these policies proposed? Noting that they were the brainchild of the outgoing president of the board, Thomas Robichaux, the Times-Picayune (November 20, 2012) previously speculated, "The move can be read in two ways": as a way for Robichaux "to leave his mark on issues he feels passionately about" and as reflecting "a concern that the board may eventually feel pressure to take a more religious bent." The blog of the weekly Gambit (December 19, 2012) reported that the only speaker on the textbook policy at the meeting was Zack Kopplin: "'Creationism certainly is not science,' he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they 'won't find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District.'"

Kopplin, the young activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (and who received NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2011), told NCSE, "Between this and the New Orleans City Council's rejection of the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act, the city of New Orleans has fully rejected creationism." (The New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution in May 2011 endorsing the repeal effort.) Kopplin added, "It might also be enough to prompt the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology to lift their boycott of New Orleans," which began in 2009, owing to what SICB's president described (PDF) as "the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "This isn't the first time that a local school board has felt the need to protect the integrity of science education against a misguided antievolution policy at the state level," citing the Manhattan-Ogden school board's decision in 2006 to ignore the set of Kansas state science standards rewritten by supporters of "intelligent design" in 2005. But, she continued, "with laws such as those enacted in Louisiana and Tennessee encouraging teachers to misrepresent the status of evolution and climate change, it's increasingly important for school board members and school district administrators to take the lead in ensuring that these topics are taught properly in their schools."