Here we go again!
West Virginia county school board considers controversial resolution

A mathematics teacher in Kanawah County -- the most populous county in West Virginia, and the location of the state capital, Charleston -- has asked the county board of education to vote on a resolution which would give science teachers more academic freedom in the way they teach science. The teacher, Karl Priest, has asked the board to consider a resolution which would clarify what teachers would be permitted to present, and evidences which would be critical of, or contrary to, the theory of evolution.

Before presenting the resolution, Mr. Priest sent a survey to the county's middle, junior high, and senior high science teachers, and found that there is broad support for the resolution. In fact, 81% of the respondents agreed that "There should be a policy that encourages teachers and students to discuss scientific evidence that questions evolution."

The resolution does not mention creation; however, the anti-creation forces are fighting the resolution. The Kanawha County Board will vote on the resolution in December.

It has been reported by the Board that its members are receiving calls which oppose the resolution (by a margin of 9-1). The press has made this appear as if the resolution is about teaching creation and bringing religion into the public schools. By not reporting that this resolution is only to clarify what teachers can teach when it comes to presenting evidences for or against evolution, the media is once again (as in Kansas) misrepresenting what is really occurring.

The tremendous uproar and confusion over the resolution indicates that it is needed. It is unfortunate for the teachers and students that the press won't let the real story be told.

We have included the proposed resolution as well as the current policy statement below. The resolution reads as follows: (Please note that no mention is made of creation)

WHEREAS, the Kanawha County Board of Education believes that teachers should be afforded the opportunity to teach subjects and theories which are controversial in nature so long as such subjects and theories are relevant to the program of study and are presented in an appropriate, factual, and unbiased manner and in a manner which promotes the understanding of all points of view, all as set forth in Board Policy 110; and

WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Kanawha County Board of Education to make certain that all teachers know and understand that they are not restricted to teaching any one or more subjects and theories, just because certain subjects and theories are contained in the approved textbooks and materials, and subjects and theories are not so contained in such materials. NOW,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE KANAWHA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, that all teachers are hereby advised that they may teach any and all subjects and theories in their respective subject areas, including, but not limited to, theories for and against the theory of evolution, so long as the following criteria are observed:

(a) Such subjects are relevant to state and county learning outcomes; (b) the subject matter must be appropriate given the age and maturity of the students; (c) there is adequate time available for satisfactory study of the material; (d) the subject matter must be presented objectively and impartially; and (e) any expression of the teacher's opinion or belief must be identified as being his or her own.

The current policy states:


Instruction Controversial Issues

Issued: 04.19.1990
Revision Number:

10.01 General Policy. Local, state, national and international issues of a controversial nature which are relevant to state learning outcomes and county programs of studies are appropriate for classroom presentation in a factual, unbiased manner.

10.02 Selection of Issues or Subjects. Classroom teachers may select controversial issues or subjects for presentation taking into account: relevancy to state learning outcomes or county programs of studies; the maturity of the students; the knowledge of the students; the interest of the students; the adequacy and availability of materials or personnel; the time available for satisfactory study; and, the customs and attitudes of the community.

10.03 Unbiased Presentation. Any presentation of a controversial issue must be calculated: to permit the free exchange of ideas; to present facts objectively and impartially; and, to stimulate discussion that promotes an understanding of all points of view. In the context of classroom presentations classroom teachers shall avoid the indoctrination of personal philosophy. Moreover, a classroom teacher's expression of beliefs and opinions must be identified as being his or her own.

10.04 Complaints. Complaints which assert a violation of this policy may be pursued through either the procedure set forth in Administrative Regulation Series K2 (Citizen Complaints) or West Virginia state board of Education Policy 7211 (126 CSR 118).

Published: 9 February 2006