[The following has been reproduced without permission] BOARD IN VISTA ORDERS TEACHING OF C

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[The following has been reproduced without permission] BOARD IN VISTA ORDERS TEACHING OF CREATIONISM Education: Christian right majority approves change defying state guidelines. Many teachers and parents object. By Michael Granberry L.A. Times Staff Writer VISTA - The embattled but resilient Christian right majority of the Vista school board early Friday achieved what its three members had been promising for months: It formally opened the door to the teaching of creationism in the city's public schools. It did so in defiance of state educational guidelines, its own vehement teachers association, and over the complaints of many parents and students at an emotional public meeting Thursday night that dragged on past midnight. By a 3-2 vote, the board ordered that "discussions of divine creation, ultimate purposes, or ultimate causes (the 'why') shall be included at appropriate times in the history-social sciences and/or English-language arts curricula." The new policy mandates "exploration and dialogue" of "scientific evidence that challenges any theory in science" and states that "no student shall be compelled to believe or accept an theory presented in the curriculum." Board President Deirdre Holliday, who heads the majority, said the change came at the urging of her constituency. "People kept asking: 'Why can't we have creationism? Why is evolution being taught as fact?' Those questions kept coming up, so we decided to do something. We now have creationism on an equal [sic] footing with evolution." The policy, which takes effect immediately, threatens to further divide this San Diego County city of 76,000 that voted in the conservative majority on a fundamentalist ticket in November. "Make no mistake -- teaching creationism is illegal. We are going to get sued," said Trustee Linda Rhoades, who, with board member Sandee Carter, forms the two-member minority that has consistently -- but futilely -- opposed the wishes of the other three. But support was evident Friday afternoon among students gathered at the Vista Recreation Center, the local bowling alley. Tom Turner, 14, who will enter Vista High School this fall, said: "I think that if they are able to teach evolution, they should also be giving opinions about the Bible." Tom described his family as Christian and members of a Baptist Church. Tim Hickey, 14, a student at Roosevelt Middle School, was in agreement. "It's true -- so they should be able to teach it," he said of the Bible's story of Genesis in which God created the world in seven days. "Without question, without doubt, it's true." In the wake of the vote, American Civil Liberties Union representatives said they are considering a lawsuit and will sue immediately should any Vista teacher begin teaching biblical creationism in the classroom. Some of the city's outraged citizenry were saying for the first time Friday that a recall drive to remove the three-member majority is an imminent possibility. Susie Lange, spokeswoman for the State Department of Education in Sacramento, expressed concern that what the board has done is mandate the teaching of biblical creation through the "back door" method of bringing it up in discussion of history and the humanities -- just not in science classes. She added that this is the first time any California school board has take such a step. Lange said state education officials will "watch the situation closely" and monitor whether the board introduces textbooks that promote Christian teachings rather than offer scholarly views about all religions. "The law they're in danger of breaking is the constitutional protection against promoting a single religion," Lange said. "But they will also be in violation of the framework guide set forth by the State Board of Education if they try to promote only one religious view." Lange said the courts "would be the ultimate enforcement" but that, if state education officials turn up evidence of Vista schools "promoting Christianity, we would notify them of our intention to stop it." She said the State Board of Education has no enforcement powers but could petition the Legislature to cut off the district's funding. The more likely response would be a lawsuit brought by the state board. If the implementation of the policy has the broader effect of fostering a discussion of all religious viewpoints -- rather than promoting one over another -- Lange said neither the State Board of Education nor the courts could object. Tom Conry, president of the Vista Teachers Assn., which bitterly opposed the policy, said teachers "will just go on teaching what we always have anyway" -- in open defiance of the three-member majority. "We are not happy with the board majority, by any means whatsoever," Conry said. "Conry singled out board member John Tyndall for the sharpest criticism. Tyndall is an executive for the Santee-based Institute for Creation Research, which published textbooks and operates a creationism 'museum' in east San Diego. "Teachers do not intend to talk about the 'weaknesses' in the theory of evolution that the Institute for Creation Research would like us to," Conry said. "He's made his position very clear. I know where he stands." Tyndall, the most outspoken of the three-member majority, could not be reached for comment Friday. The third member of the conservative coalition is Joyce Lee. Holliday scoffed at the "rumor running loose that we're trying to sneak creationism into the classroom," saying that the board is being direct about its wishes. In response to calls for a recall drive, Holliday said: "[It is] certainly the prerogative of anyone in this district to attempt to recall any elected official who they don't think is doing a good job." Holliday said the policy would hold up in court if challenged. Jordan Budd, staff counsel for the ACLU of San Diego County, said the board's new policy fell short of what he believed the conservative majority sought: an outright mandate to teach creationism to the exclusion of more accepted theories of evolution. "It's an echo of the agenda they set out to accomplish," Budd said. Meanwhile back at the bowling alley, Tom said: "We hear a lot about the controversy -- in class and at home -- but they shouldn't be having it. Because the board is good. They are trying to do the right thing. People tell the board they can't teach the Bible, but that they can teach evolution. If they taught both, we'd be more open-minded." Jim Morris, 38, has two children in the Vista school system and works the front counter at the bowling alley. "If they want to teach sex education -- fine, with parental consent only. If they want to teach creationism, same thing. If I want it taught to my child, it can be done, but only with my consent. It should not be forced on anyone."


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