Judiciary review

I’ve pulled out the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee pre-meeting review of Senate Bill 2692 (the deceptively named “academic freedom” bill) from the looooong meeting packet and uploaded it here for your reading pleasure. (Original document here, scroll to page 155.) If senators bother to actually read the document before the Tuesday morning meeting, it would show how how shaky the bill’s legality is. Some excerpts:

The bill is silent on who determines whether the teacher’s presentation on scientific information meets the definition and is therefore afforded protection under the act. Presumably, the determination would be made by the school district, but this is not stated. Additionally, the definition appears to encompass a wide range of information within the protected presentation by the teacher. The bill suggests that the only requirement is that the information is relevant to the science standards pertaining to evolution, and that the information is presented objectively. Again the bill is silent on who defines the objectivity of the scientific information presented. The administration and the teacher may have different views on the objectiveness of the information presented.

It is unclear under the bill if a student’s performance in a science class will be measured upon his or her own view or position on evolution, or by a consistent standard applied to each student. The ambiguity may create unanticipated problems with student evaluation and grading in science classes.

It should also be noted that, because evolution and countervailing theories are subject to intense controversy, objective presentation of scientific information critical of the theory of evolution may be difficult to achieve in the classroom. If at any point objectivity is abandoned, it is possible that a court could determine that the state is promoting religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

I’m not too happy with the above paragraph. There are no “countervailing theories”, and the only “intense controversy” is in the general public’s and politicians’ eyes, not among the consensus of the scientific community.

While a student maintains free speech rights, as indicated above, those rights are not without limitation. It appears that this provision in the bill may be interpreted to expand the rights of students in excess of the First Amendment.

A teacher’s statements in class during instructional periods are part of the curriculum and regular class activity and thus subject to reasonable speech regulation.

The above sentence directly addresses the very lie of this “academic freedom” bill.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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3 Responses to Judiciary review

  1. James F says:

    The committee cites Jay Wexler, one of the contributors to Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. The senators may ignore it (hopefully they will all at least show up this time), but still…nice. 😎

  2. firemancarl says:

    Lets hope they get the message and veto this thing.

  3. S.Scott says:

    If they actually read this, IMO, there is no way that they will pass this thing.

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