The indefatigable Zack Kopplin has found yet more evidence that the Louisiana Science Education Act has led public school teachers and administrators to incorporate creationism into what is taught in science classes in that state. He did so with Freedom of Information Act requests.
Through a public records request, I obtained dozens of emails from the Bossier Parish school district that specifically discuss teaching creationism. Shawna Creamer, a science teacher at Airline High School, sent an email to the principal, Jason Rowland, informing him of which class periods she would use to teach creationism. “We will read in Genesis and them [sic] some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present,” Creamer wrote.
In another email exchange with Rowland, a parent had complained that a different teacher, Cindy Tolliver, actually taught that evolution was a “fact.” This parent complained that Tolliver was “pushing her twisted religious beliefs onto the class.”Principal Rowland responded, “I can assure you this will not happen again.”
Another email was sent by Bossier High School assistant principal Doug Scott to Michael Stacy, a biology teacher at that school. “I enjoyed the visit to your class today as you discussed evolution and creationism in a full spectrum of thought,” Scott wrote. “Thank you for the rich content as you bring various sources to bear in your curriculum.”…
After the hearing I followed up with the Ouachita Parish school system to learn how the “discrepancies” in evolution were being taught. I obtained a PowerPoint about the origin of life that is used in Ouachita Parish Junior High School’s life science classes. It presents evolution as just a theory and says that theories are “possibly true” but “not known or proven to be true.” Creationism is also presented as a theory and given equal footing with evolution. Students are taught that the “[b]asis for creationism is founded in Genesis of the Bible,” and “Creationism relies on the claim that there is a ‘purpose’ to all creation known only to the creator.”…School boards have also used the act to push for creationism. At a 2010 Caddo Parish School Board meeting, board member Steve Riall “said he knows the Governor has granted permission for districts in Louisiana to give equal value in teaching evolution and creationism,” according to the meeting’s minutes.
And creationism certainly is being taught in Caddo Parish schools. Charlotte Hinson, a fifth-grade teacher at Caddo’s Eden Gardens Magnet School, wrote a column for the Shreveport Times in which she declared: “My job is to present both [evolution and creationism]” because “God made science.”
In an email to a Bossier teacher, Hinson said that despite a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union warning against teaching creationism, she had the support of local lawyers, her principal, and the school board. The principal and school board “reminded me I did nothing wrong,” she wrote. “Times are getting harder and harder…….I feel the end is near. Be blessed!!!”
The Bossier Parish teacher exchanging emails with Hinson was Carolyn Goodwin, who teaches at Stockwell Place Elementary and is also a creationist. “Bossier [school district] has it’s [sic] problems but there are so many awesome Christians from the top down,” Goodwin wrote to Hinson. “We pray at school functions and probably break the law all the time!!”
The case that banned the teaching of creationism in public school science classrooms in 1987 was Edwards v Aguillard. The Edwards was Edwin Edwards, then governor of Louisiana. It’s clear that the state has learned nothing from losing that case, but the same is true all over the country. I strongly suggest that this tactic used by Zack be used widely. You can file FOIA requests like this in your state as well and get all the same information, including any communications about it between teachers and administrators and all materials used in the classrooms. Since creationist material is never incorporated into the official curriculum, it’s the supplemental materials where the evidence can usually be found.