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Evolution News and Views

CA Citizen Defending His Civil Rights Makes News

The lawsuit filed by attorney and parent Larry Caldwell against the Roseville Joint Union High School District for violation of his civil rights has been making waves in the media.

World Net Daily and The Sacramento Bee have stories discussing Caldwell's suit and the inequities he was subjected to by the District over the course of a whole year.

In the interests of accuracy, note that Sacramento Bee's Laurel Rosen reports inaccurately when she (mistakenly) asserts that Caldwell tried to introduce "anti-evolution material" in the District. "Anti-evolution" entails the removal of chemical and biological evolutionary theories from curriculum, but what Caldwell sought to do was precisely the opposite: teach students even more about existing scientific theories by requiring them to learn the scientific weaknesses of such theories as well as their scientific strengths. (Caldwell's proposal did not even call for the teaching of the scientific theory of intelligent design.)

Caldwell's 96-page complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (available here) tells of the long train of abuses that Caldwell was subjected to by the District because it disagreed with Caldwell's position that students should be able to learn about the scientific controversies surrounding biological and chemical evolutionary theories. Caldwell's complaint leaves the District with a lot of explaining to do--particularly its pattern of ignoring its own procedures or making up new ones and applying them only to Caldwell.

For eight long months the Board sought to prevent Caldwell from exercising his rights as a citizen and parent to put his policy proposal on the Board's agenda. Caldwell's
"Quality Science Education" simply states:

Because nothing in science or in any other field of knowledge shall be taught dogmatically, and scientific theories are constantly subject to testing, modification and reutation as new evidence and new ideas emerge (1), teachers in the Roseville Joint Union High School District are expected to help students analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution.

(1) California State Board of Education Policy on the Teaching of Natural Sciences (1989).

It is still surprising how a policy as simple and as moderate as Caldwell's would lead a Board and others in the District to resort to Kafkaesque tactics in order to submarine Caldwell's proposal. (See Caldwell's timeline here for succinct summary of this.) Certain Board members and District officials resorted to badmouthing Caldwell in the public square, with one Board member even threatening to SUE Caldwell for exercising his rights. After several months of shenanigans, convinced that it has sufficiently attacked his credibility and poisoned the well on this issue, the Board majority felt confident enough to vote (down) on Caldwell's proposal. Un-deliberative democracy at its worst.

Caldwell succinctly summarizes his treatment by the District in his press release:

I tried to exercise my basic rights as a citizen to propose a new idea and school officials responded by suspending normal procedures, publicly attacking my personal religious beliefs, and even threatening to sue me to stop me from speaking out . . .
Caldwell goes on to describe the actions of the Board as something one would expect "in a banana republic." Particularly galling is the Board majority's insistence that Caldwell drop a pending administrative complaint against the Board in exchange for the Board's willingness to place Caldwell's proposed policy on its meeting agenda for May, 2004 meeting. (In a show of good faith, Caldwell assented to this deal, only to have the Board put off a final vote until even later.) The Board had no legal basis for imposing such a condition on Caldwell. His complaint to the Court shows this kind of behavior to be characteristic of certain Board members and District officials on this issue.

For more information, see our press release (here) and John West's recent post on this matter (here).