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Evolution in the wings

Students at a Kansas high school are set to stage a play that may get more of a reaction than simply a review in the school paper.

The well-known drama, "Inherit the Wind," retells in fictionalized form the 1925 trial of John T. Scopes, who was charged with violating Tennessee law by teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. He was convicted and fined $100.

The production at Hutchinson High School comes after the Kansas state board of education set off a national furor by virtually eliminating references to evolution in the state science curriculum. Though schools are still free to teach the topic, it will not be included on state tests.

The choice of play was no coincidence, said Ronn Roehm, the principal of the 1,400- student school in Hutchinson. He approved the production after talking to drama teacher Kevin Kneisley about the play and the topic of academic freedom.

Mr. Roehm said many outsiders have taken an interest in the school's decision to perform the play, which was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee and in 1960 adapted as a popular movie.

"It's generated interest, but I wouldn't call it a controversy," Mr. Roehm said, although the Kansas board's decision has made the state a focal point for debate. To address the fallout both from the board's decision and the play's staging, the school may hold a forum next month involving clergy, members of the state board, and members of the public.

Evolution and other theories would be the topics, but a decision to hold a forum is not yet final. "We don't want to take away the focus from the students and the performance," Mr. Roehm explained.

Performances are scheduled for Feb. 19-21."We are not sending a message," Mr. Roehm said. But, he added, "we want people to be respectful of each other's views."

—Candice Furlan

Vol. 19, Issue 17, Page 3

Published in Print: January 12, 2000, as Take Note
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