By guest blogger Madeline Will
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit last week that alleges Kansas’ science standards violate the religious freedoms of students and parents and promote atheism.
The Next Generation Science Standards, which were adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education last year, include evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts that should be taught from kindergarten to 12th grade.
According to the Associated Press, Kansas board members believed that the standards will improve science education in the state with more of an emphasis on hands-on projects and experiments.
But last September, the group Citizens for Objective Public Education, joined by parents and other taxpayers, filed a lawsuit against the state education department and board.
The complaint alleges that the standards will cause Kansas public schools “to establish and endorse a nontheistic, religious worldview.” The complaint said students taught the standards-aligned curriculum will ask religious questions like “where do we come from,” and educators will be led by the standards to answer “with only materialistic/atheistic answers.”
According to the AP, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled that the lawsuit did not claim specific injuries from the standards’ adoption—other than an “abstract stigmatic injury"—and, therefore, the case cannot go forward.
He also noted that local school districts have control over what’s taught in classrooms under the guidelines.
This isn’t the first time there has been backlash regarding adoption of the common science standards, which were developed by 26 states (including Kansas) and the National Research Council.
In Wyoming, a budget measure blocked the state education department from adopting the common standards, fueled by concerns about how evolution and climate change were addressed. In June, nearly 50 current and retired science and math educators from the University of Wyoming wrote a position paper in defense of the Next Generation Science Standards, directed to the state board of education.
The pace of adoption for the common science standards has been slow, especially when compared to the Common Core State Standards, which cover math and English/language arts. Curriculum Matters’ Liana Heitin made a handy reference tool to keep track of which states have adopted the science standards so far (12 states and the District of Columbia).
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.