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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Florida Follow-Up ("Academic Freedom Act")

The state Senate judiciary committee yesterday voted 6-3 (along partisan lines) in favor of a new bill, introduced by Republican Senator Ronda Storms, that would allow teachers to "present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical evolution." Storms says the bill is needed to protect the views of those who are "muzzled" when it comes to questioning or criticizing evolution, but those who oppose the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, see it as an attempt to bring religious theories like "intelligent design" into the science classroom. According to the Department of Education, there has never been a reported case in which a Florida public school teacher or student was discriminated against based on their science teaching or course work, and Mary Bahr, a middle school science teacher with 15 year experience told the committee that she has "never heard anyone express concerns for their academic freedom, or that they felt constrained from teaching all the scientific evidence surrounding any concept." Bahr helped write the state's new science standards, which use the word "evolution" for the first time and which were adopted by the Florida State Board of Education just days before Storms introduced her bill. The bill, which passed Florida Senate's Committee on Education Pre-K–12 last month, will now go before the full Senate. —Heather Wax