Science

Dover’s New School Board Prepares to Scrap District’s Disputed Policy

By Sean Cavanagh — January 03, 2006 2 min read
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A federal judge has forbidden school officials in Dover, Pa., to require that students be introduced to the concept of “intelligent design” in science class.

Now, the newly reconstituted Dover school board appears ready to enforce that ruling.

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Possible Road Map Seen in Dover Case

A strong majority of the panel’s members, after winning election in November and taking office Dec. 5, oppose the intelligent-design policy adopted by the previous board. They have been expected to take steps to do away with it and could begin that effort as early as a Jan. 3 meeting.

At that meeting this week, the nine-member board could eliminate a requirement that 9th grade biology students have a statement read to them introducing intelligent design, according to Bernadette Reinking, the newly elected president of the board.

In addition, as early as sometime this month, the board could move to revise the district science curriculum, which refers to “gaps/problems” in evolutionary theory and mentions intelligent design. Under district rules, that change could take longer to enact, Ms. Reinking said.

“We’re trying to punch all the tickets,” she said.

Looking Ahead

The Dover board’s position on the controversy changed dramatically after Nov. 8. That’s when local voters—more than a month before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III rejected the intelligent-design policy as religiously based —ousted all eight incumbent members, all of whom favored the policy. Eight challengers who opposed it, including Ms. Reinking, won seats.

One remaining board member who was not up for re-election, Heather Geesey, has voiced support for the policy, which was adopted in 2004.

One challenger who appeared to win a seat in November, former Dover High School science teacher Bryan Rehm, faced a new election Jan. 3 against incumbent James Cashman, who has campaigned in favor of the existing intelligent-design stance. A York County, Pa., judge ordered a partial revote after concluding that a faulty voting machine had been used on election day.

The new board members said during their campaigns that they would not oppose teaching about intelligent design—as long as it was in an elective class, outside of science.

Looking ahead, Ms. Reinking did not think her district’s debate over intelligent design, or the resulting legal outcome, would discourage proponents of the concept from trying to find ways to present it in science class.

“This is America. It’s their right to do that,” Ms. Reinking said. “As long as it’s not in Dover.”

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