Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Northeast Florida Balks at Evolution; School Districts Are Objecting to a Proposed Change in Science Class

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Northeast Florida Balks at Evolution; School Districts Are Objecting to a Proposed Change in Science Class

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT SOERGEL

School boards across Northeast Florida are objecting to Florida's proposed new science standards that would, for the first time in state history, require schools to teach that evolution is the backbone of all biological science.

The boards in St. Johns and Baker counties have unanimously passed resolutions urging the Florida Department of Education to back down from those new standards on evolution. The matter comes up tonight in Clay County, and Nassau and Putnam counties have similar resolutions pending.

Rural Taylor County, southeast of Tallahassee, was the first to approve a resolution on the matter, according to the state Department of Education. Baker was second and St. Johns third, on Tuesday night.

The Duval County School Board, which oversees the largest school system in the region, has not yet made a decision on the new science standards, said Chairwoman Betty Burney.

"It hasn't come up with us yet because we've been focused on other things," she said.

The board, however, will be studying the issue. "We don't want to make any rash decisions," Burney said.

Backers of the resolutions contend they're not trying to drive evolution out of schools. Instead, they say they object to presenting evolution as - in the words of the St. Johns County resolution - a "dogmatic fact."

Some school superintendents say the resolutions reflect the religious nature of their constituents in Northeast Florida.

"Of course, the farther south you get, you don't see them necessarily embracing what we are saying," said Baker County Superintendent Paula Barton. "To be honest with you, we are a strong Christian community here, and once people here have gotten a hold of [the resolution], they've certainly given it strong support."

Nassau County Superintendent John Ruis said he is a strong believer in biblical creationism. The theory of evolution has many "holes" in it, he said - and presenting it as undisputed fact "is certainly contrary to the beliefs of many people, including myself."

Clay County's retiring superintendent, David Owens, said the state is "interfering" in what should be a local matter. Other theories on the origin of life should be presented along with evolution, he said.

"I believe in the separation of church and state, but I also believe there is important information available on both sides of [evolution]," he said. "To present it in just one way is wrong."

Other backers of the resolutions say it isn't their intent to introduce into classrooms beliefs such as creationism or intelligent design.

However, said Beverly Slough of the St. …

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