Two more resolutions

[this post updated with a third county for a total of six so far]

I’ve been doing a methodical search of school district websites for any information that might reveal more school boards issuing anti-evolution resolutions like Taylor, Baker and Holmes did. (Previous post about: possibility of 12 total counties with resolutions here, Baker and Holmes Counties here, and Taylor County here.)

The search has been difficult as not all websites are easy to navigate. Nearly half I’ve searched so far don’t post board meeting minutes or agendas. But my scouring of the northern counties has revealed two hits.

Hamilton County apparently approved a resolution Dec. 17. Go to the minutes and look on the first page.

Resolution regarding Sunshine State Standards for science

The Superintendent provided information on this item and recommended approval for forwarding to the Department of Education. Motion to approve by Mr. Deas and seconded by Mrs. Roberson; the motion carried unanimously. (Supplement 5843)

Of course, there is always the chance that the resolution says something positive about the Standards. I don’t have any other information other than what’s in that paragraph. But I would bet that it’s the same old resolution we’ve seen in the other counties.

The other county I discovered is Clay County. What’s interesting here is that the resolution is not yet approved! It will go before the school board Jan. 17. Is there anyone in the area who can attend? This would be the perfect chance to ask some questions and try to find out who is behind this resolution effort. Also, here is contact information for the board. Even if you can’t attend the meeting, you can at least call, write, or e-mail the board members and explain why this resolution is flawed and a bad idea. Here is the meeting agenda. And here is a copy of the proposed resolution.

What’s wrong with these resolutions? They want the new draft of the state science standards to be changed “so that evolution is not presented as fact.” The evidence for evolution are facts. These school boards have no idea what they are talking about.

I believe that the “not presented as fact” line is an edit. Taylor County’s resolution says something a bit different: “so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.” News flash, folks: evolution taught in the high school biology class doesn’t cover how the universe was formed. That little twitch there, you know, the itch to bring up the universe when all we’re supposed to be talking about is changes in life over time, is a clue to the reason behind all of this. But that’s not all.

A line from the Clay County resolution says: “… need to present these standards through a fair and balanced approach.” But the Taylor County resolution says more: “… need to present these standards through a fair and balanced approach, an approach that does not unfairly exclude other theories as to the creation of the universe.” The Taylor County sentence is a red flag for the motivation that is behind all of this: the desire to have religion in the public school science classroom. Some counties are a bit scared to have such bold language in their resolution copies and thus do a little bit of editing. But a comparison of all of these resolutions will out them anyway.

Now the million dollar question is: who is behind this? Who shopped this resolution around to all of these school boards and superintendents?

[Update] Karen R. reports in the comments that she is digging up dirt, too. She discovered mention of a resolution in St. Johns County. Find that mention on the school board briefs page.

Science Standards

The Board discussed the recent controversy over the proposed change in the science standards involving the teaching of evolution. The Board did not disagree with the idea of evolution being taught but with the dogmatic approach being proposed. Mrs. Slough will assist in drafting a resolution for the January 15 School Board meeting.

Anyone going to be in or near St. Johns County Jan. 15?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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29 Responses to Two more resolutions

  1. S.Scott says:

    Question … How would “they” know which Superintendants to approach?

  2. Karen R says:

    Hmmm, we must be tying up the lines in Hamilton county! I called to ask where I could find the full text of supplements referenced in the minutes, and it took quite a while before it rang through.

    I spoke with Denise (last name unknown) who said the supplements were all on file there at the administration office. I told her that I wasn’t a local, but that I’d be happy to pay a fee to get a full text version of that particular supplement. She took my name and number and promised to call back with the duplication costs and information. I’ll post again if I get any specifics.

  3. Karen R says:

    Sorry for the number of posts today – I’m angry and keep finding more reasons to stay that way.

    St. John’s county has the following in their School Board Briefs section:

    “The Board discussed the recent controversy over the proposed change in the science standards involving the teaching of evolution. The Board did not disagree with the idea of evolution being taught but with the dogmatic approach being proposed. Mrs. Slough will assist in drafting a resolution for the January 15 School Board meeting.”

    I can’t find any reference to this resolution in the agenda (yet) but it’s obviously a concern. I’ll probably spend some more time today doing a little websleuthing – sadly, I’m sure I’ll be posting again shortly.

  4. Brandon Haught says:


    Post as often as you like. Finding that St. John’s county item is outstanding! Right now I’m trying to work through the Florida School Board Association to see if anyone there can help us get to the bottom of this.

  5. S.Scott says:

    Brandon, Is there a way for you to contact Mark Pettus (Saint Johns Sun) about the Jan. 15th school board meeting? I would do it but I admit – I’m chicken. Speaking at that meeting last week took a lot out of me. The reason I suggest Mark is because in a different life – he studied Biology. He knows “Dung” when he hears it. Here’s his e mail if you should contact him.

  6. Karen R says:

    Re: the St. Johns county brief – I was told by Vicki in the superintendent’s office that the resolution has been ‘typed up’ but that they ‘weren’t sure’ that it would be available before the meeting. She said it would probably be posted online at some point. Any locals available for some on-site footwork?

    I’ve also not heard anything from Hamilton county, and I’m not holding out much hope that the supplement is a sound endorsement of the new standards.

  7. firemancarl says:

    I canna believe I am gonna say this, Volusia County appears to be a bastian or science and reason. At least the VCSB thinks so by endorsing evolution.

  8. firemancarl says:

    Sweet! With the possibility of evolution or evilution if you are so inclined, being tossed, maybe we can go back to the good ole days the xtians love so much. ya know, slavery, blue laws, killing your neighbors cause they don’t follow your god. Man, I can’t wait!

  9. Gavin Baker says:

    FWIW, I Googled around the Seminole County board site and didn’t find any statement either way.

    Have the teachers’ unions and associations weighed in on this? What about Florida’s colleges? There is a lot of concern about high school preparing students adequately for higher education — it would be useful to have college professors saying “if you don’t understand evolution in high school, you will do poorly in college biology”.

  10. David Campbell says:

    I live in Clay County, teach biology in Clay County, and am one of the standards writers responsible for the language in question. I will speak at the school board meeting.

  11. DC says:

    My contacts within the Clay County system think that the Christian Coalition may be involved in sending the resolutions out. I will post a sample letter in the next day or two that will give you some heavy artillery. An unnamed source at DOE thinks this is all a political thing for many of the boards, that the petition votes are a CYA for the elected officials who don’t want to face the wrath of irate voters on this issue.

  12. Karen R says:

    An update on the Hamilton resolution – Denise got back with me and said that for the low price of $.15, I can have a paper copy mailed to me. All electronic file copies (e-mail or fax) cost $50 (seriously!) – so I dropped a dollar in the mail, she said she’d get it out tomorrow if she received payment.

    I don’t suppose anyone in Hamilton county would be willing to stop in today and pay 15 cents to get a copy of supplement 5843? I’ll reimburse you AND send cookies! I make great cookies….

  13. S.Scott says:

    @DC and Karen R. – Yay!!!
    A “Hat tip” to Paul from “PT” for the following.
    “Attorney David Gibbs III, lead attorney in the fight to save the life of Terri Schiavo…” – from the Christian Law Association website,

    “So says attorney David Gibbs III of his lawyer father, David Gibbs Jr (who founded the Christian Law Association). Together, they work as legal missionaries defending the rights of churches and Christians nationwide.” and “The Christian Law Association takes many types of Christian free-speech cases…” and “The firm, headquartered in Seminole, FL, also has an office in Ohio.” –…

    (And guess who else is in Ohio? Dr. Francis Grubbs is President of Chappel Creek Village Retirement Center and Resort in Vermilion, Ohio.)

    “(David) Gibbs (III) is a graduate of Liberty University, the college founded by conservative activist Rev. Jerry Falwell….Gibbs is the son of David Gibbs Jr., founder and president of the Christian Law Association, a fundamentalist Christian “ministry of legal helps.” According to Liquid List, CLA raises about $3 million a year in donations, about $1.85 million of which goes to the Gibbs Law Firm, headed by – that’s right – David Gibbs III, who is also the CLA’s corporate secretary.” –…

    “The Rights of Christians in America’s Public Schools” – an article on the Answers In Genesis website by David Gibbs Jr. and David Gibbs III –…

    “According to CLA’s tax documents, somehow, it appears, the Christian Law Association is able to raise nearly $3 million a year. Of that amount, again according to their 2002 form 990 (tax form that must be filed by all 501c3 charities)…$1.85 million went to pay for the services of Gibbs Law Firm, headed up by our and Terry Schiavo’s parents’ friend, and Secretary of the Christian Law Association, David Gibbs III. Now I’m not saying anything shifty is going on here. Mostly what this information shows is that we have yet another lunatic fundamentalist organization with alarmingly good financial resources raising a ruckus for no good (to a normal person) reason. However, while the Christian Law Association provides… cost-free legal assistance to Bible-believing churches and Christians …it does so by funneling nearly $2 million to the founder’s son, who also happens to be the organization’s corporate secretary…. Three million raised, from the gullible rapture-right! See what a little ingenuity and the U.S. postal service can do for you?” -…

    Comment #140107 on January 13, 2008 11:22 PM | Quote

  14. Steven says:

    “Karen R Says:
    January 14th, 2008 at 9:34 am
    An update on the Hamilton resolution – Denise got back with me and said that for the low price of $.15, I can have a paper copy mailed to me. All electronic file copies (e-mail or fax) cost $50 (seriously!) – so I dropped a dollar in the mail, she said she’d get it out tomorrow if she received payment.”

    I can’t help but wonder if it would be cheaper chisled into a stone tablet…

  15. dc says:

    This is a long and probably too verbose letter I sent to the members of the Clay County School Board, to the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction (who sponsored the resolution) and to our elected superintendent of schools. It is slightly edited here. Feel free to plagiarize any relevant talking points you can use. I apologize, again, for the length but I wanted to leave some of the basic biology in place. I don’t really think that any of these people have actually read the draft standards and I am certain they haven’t read the version we finished last Friday.

    I apologize in advance for the length of this e-mail but I ask you to read it carefully and critically bearing in mind my unique position in this discussion. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in biology from Cornell University, am qualified as both teacher and examiner for International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement biology courses, am National Board Certification in Adult/Young Adult science and, most important of all, I am one of the handful of writers who created the standards being challenged by this resolution. I know biology and I probably know the biology portion of the new standards better than anyone else in the district. The proposed resolution urging rejection of the draft Sunshine State Standards is ill advised on educational grounds, scientific grounds, and quite possibly on legal grounds. It needs to be rejected. If, after reading this e-mail, you have questions or would like to discuss the issue further I will be at the training center at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday or can be reached via e-mail.

    When the current standards were released more than a decade ago a lot of teachers, including me, were appalled at their poor quality. They were neither teachable nor assessable, had huge gaps in coverage, and contained errors in basic science in all major disciplines. For more than ten years those standards have been like a ball and chain holding our teachers and students back, preventing effective teaching and learning of world class science. Independent observers agreed that Florida’s standards were abysmal. The Thomas Fordham Institute gave Florida’s standards a grade of 48 out of 100 possible points, making Florida one of 15 states earning a grade of F. The Fordham reviewers wrote, “It’s a good thing that Florida is reworking its science standards. The current documents are reasonably well organized but sorely lacking in content…Life sciences and evolution are given shorter shrift than any of the others [subject areas]. There is little in the way of useful guidance for teachers or others toward appropriate content in the biological sciences and especially in the history of life and the basic mechanisms of change.”

    In June, 2007, a group of roughly thirty teachers, college professors, and interested members of the public began creating a new set of world class Sunshine State Standards for Science. We have spent weeks away from home and devoted countless hours to reading standards and policy papers from other states and other countries. We have discussed, argued, and struggled but we have produced what we were asked to write. These new standards ARE world class. Dr. Lawrence Lerner, one of the original Fordham reviewers who gave the old standards a grade of F, has praised the newest draft. His review from November, 2007, contains the following comments: “The recently published draft of the new science standards is a giant step in the right direction for Florida. Generally speaking, the document is cogent, comprehensive, and accurate…Especially laudable is the coverage of the biological sciences, with evolution in its place as the foundation and central principle of the discipline as a science.”

    The resolution under consideration complains about the phrase, “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence.” That phrase is one of the key benchmarks because it is correct, accurate, and reflects the way biology is taught at major universities including ALL major colleges in Florida. The National Science Education Standards, written and published by the National Academy of Sciences, includes Biological Evolution as one of the six Unifying Concepts and Processes of Biology. The Academy also wrote that, “Natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms, as well as for the striking molecular similarities observed among diverse species of living organisms.” The College Board, in charge of the Advanced Placement program, uses the concept of evolution as one of the eight major themes of an AP biology course and rejects course descriptions that do not include extensive instruction in evolution and natural selection. Evolution is a critical component of both Standard Level and Higher Level International Baccalaureate Biology courses. Evolution occupies a prominent place in every major college level biology course except for those taught at fundamentalist, religion-based schools. Evolution by natural selection is the single most important theory that helps biologists to explain the natural world. The presentation in the standards IS fair and balanced and it is based on sound, experimental evidence. Those who wish the standards to allow “teaching alternatives,” “teaching the controversy,” or “evaluation of evidence that disagree with evolution” do not understand the overwhelming experimental evidence supporting evolutionary theory or are trying to advance a religious agenda while carefully avoiding language that runs afoul of legal restrictions on religious instruction in public school science classrooms. If you don’t believe that last sentence (or you support those views yourself) then try to identify any valid, scientifically-based, experimentally supported alternatives that come close to explaining the breadth of biological phenomenon explained by evolution. If the proposal is not supported by experimental evidence it isn’t science and doesn’t belong in a science classroom. Intelligent design and its post Kitzmiller vs Dover relatives are not science.

    Our students deserve and need the new Sunshine State Science Standards. Students who are not going to college need the best science education possible to give them the critical decision making skills they need to make intelligent choices about public policy in an increasingly biotechnology influenced world. College bound Clay County students need those same critical thinking skills plus we owe them best science education possible to prepare them for rigorous college courses. The new standards are a dramatic improvement over the old and will help Clay County and Florida produce the best-prepared science students in the country.

    Science, incidentally is not anti-religion. It is, in the minds of most scientists, non theistic or religion neutral. Science is based on testable hypotheses. Religion is based on faith. Some of us are comfortable in both science and faith. Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Ken Miller are two prominent examples who have been vocal and eloquent about their religious beliefs and scientific knowledge. For what it is worth, I am a lifelong Christian who has never had a problem teaching evolution in my classroom nor have I had a problem with students or parents once I explained the parallel natures of science and religion. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Allow me to present a quick primer on evolution and natural selection and then I will let you move on to your other exciting emails. Evolution is defined as the change in the genetics of a population over time. It IS a fact. Evolution is observed in nature and in the lab. It is evident in the fossil record, in the biochemistry and DNA of organisms, in the embryology and structure of living things, and in our own production of livestock, crops, and pets through artificial selection. You can find the same information in every advanced biology textbook used at major universities throughout the United States and the rest of the civilized world. My Scottish ancestors understood that populations change and used that knowledge to develop the Highland cow. The National Science Education Standards cited earlier contain the following statement on page 185, “Species evolve over time.” No uncertainty. If you doubt the mutability of species just look at a great Dane and a chihuahua. Both had exactly the same ancestor 10,000 years ago. Imagine what they might look like in another 10,000 years.

    Natural selection, on the other hand, is the primary mechanism for evolutionary change. Selection is a theory, an explanation for events observed in nature that has been repeatedly tested and found to be accurate. A theory with a century and a half of testing behind it is as close to fact as you can get in a scientific explanation but most scientists stop short of that declaration. Natural selection has been tested extensively for nearly 150 years and there is no better scientific explanation for the way the natural world works. Other prominent theories include the Germ Theory of Disease, the Theory of Gravity, and the Theories of General and Special Relativity.

    All this is not to be confused with the origin of life, an issue in other versions of the resolution you are considering but which was somehow deleted from this edition. Evolution by natural selection doesn’t begin until you have a living, reproducing organism.

    The resolution under consideration is an extension of the intelligent design concept (There is no intelligent design theory.) that caused so many problems in Kansas and in Dover, Pennsylvania. It asks for a fair and balanced approach without explaining what that approach might be, sort of the equivalent of a politician promising change without specifying what that change is. It is very similar to resolutions being voted on in counties across Florida, all using essentially the same language and, no doubt, all having a common source. The fair and balanced approach its proponents want includes “alternative explanations” to natural selection. There are no scientific alternative explanations to evolution by natural selection. None. The only alternatives are nonscientific and do not, therefore belong in a science class. The only winners where intelligent design (sorry, alternative views) has been forced into the science classrooms are Leno and Letterman who mined those decisions for weeks and the lawyers who got wealthy from the legal battles.

    Florida’s students deserve to be taught world class science to prepare them for higher education and for life in a technically and scientifically challenging world. The old standards were firmly grounded in the nineteenth century. Our students deserve better. The new Sunshine State Science Standards bring science teaching in Florida into the twenty-first century. The resolution under consideration requests the presentation of a “fair and balanced approach,” to science education, a euphemism for nonscientific ideas, and will throw us back into the scientific illiteracy that has plagued Florida’s students for more than a decade. For the sake of our children, please defeat this resolution.

  16. Karen R says:

    David Campbell, you rock. Seriously, you are exactly what Florida needs more of. Thanks for teaching, thanks for working on the standards, and thanks for standing up for science education.

    Regarding St. Johns – Vicki was apparently wrong, it will NOT be posted online – they won’t post it until/if it is approved. A nice helpful someone in the office was kind enough to e-mail me a copy, though – I’ve uploaded it for anyone interested. It sure looks familiar…

    I was told to be sure to realize that this is only a draft, and that the final resolution will be posted if/when it passes.

  17. S.Scott says:

    Mr. campbell – that was beautiful! I wish I had read that before I sent mine ..

    Good morning,

    I was very displeased to find that you have a meeting tonight that has such an important topic on your agenda, go “Un-advertised.” – not in your minutes section or even in your agenda section for tonight , but in the “briefs” section of your web site. –

    I am sure you are aware that if you decide to pass a resolution that accuses the proposed science standards of having a ” dogmatic approach ” to teaching evolution – you will not be speaking for the entire county, and certainly not for me.

    Please do not have a hand in trying to send Florida back to the times of the “Scopes Monkey Trial”. – That would be quite embarrassing.

    I’m very proud of how our schools have been performing, but I think that all the good you have done as a school board can be “un-done” very quickly with one bad decision. When the children in Florida (my son included) send out their college applications – I would hate for them to be sent into the waste basket before they even get looked at because the child that sent it is from Florida.

    Thanks for giving my “point of view” a consideration before you make any decision on this matter.”…

    @ Karen – YOU ROCK TOO! Great detective work! Can you say “Sunshine Law”!!

  18. DC says:

    I note that the quoted benchmark in both St. Johns County and Clay County resolutions contains the same typo. The benchmark actually reads, “…is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.” Both resolutions use the phrase, “…is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence.” Rather sloppy of them, I think. Not unexpected, but still sloppy.
    Also sloppy is the use of the word “fact” which is nowhere to be found in Standard 2, the Evolution and Diversity benchmark.
    If you want to be nasty you might challenge the ID side to define dogma. I hear it a lot in comments from ID supporters from St Johns County. My trusty collegiate dictionary calls it, “A belief taught or held as true, expecially by authority of a church,” or “An opinion asserted in a positive manner as if it were of the highest authority,” or “Any system of established principles and tenets.” Then ask them how overwhelming evidence fits in with their definition of dogma.

  19. S.Scott says:

    Anyone from Palm Beach out there? – That’s where the shouldersofgiants web site is from. All info is hidden, however. I am curious if ‘Gibbs’ has a law firm there. @ DC – Good job finding the typo. I think it will be pretty easy to show a “common denominator” soon.

  20. Karen R says:

    shouldersofgiants is mine, actually – I hosted it because St. John’s declined to make it publicly available before the meeting.

    I hadn’t noticed the typo – that’s likely to be useful if only in tracing the infection.

    I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a bunch of high school students today, and was greatly relieved to hear that they are all evolution supporters. It’s refreshing to find a whole group of people (in real life!) who think scientists are the best people to ask scientific questions. There may be hope yet!

  21. S.Scott says:

    Oops! Sorry Karen!! :0

  22. Karen R says:

    No worries – any evilutionists who show up on my doorstep to question me can look at my rock collection and are welcome to stay for a Pastafarian communion dinner.

    I didn’t end up calling Dixie County today, lost track of time. I’ll make sure to call tomorrow. I’m glad to be helping you folks who have been fighting the good fight all along.

  23. dc says:

    Add Duval County to the list of counties where the resolution is under review. The pattern seems to be putting it on the consent agenda where it is harder to see and no discussion is allowed. My email to the Clay County Board was enough to get one sympathetic board member to move it to the discussion agenda.
    I spent half an hour this afternoon talking to Matt Soergel of the Times-Union in Jacksonville about the resolutions and the process in general. He was curious about the number of resolutions and wondered if I knew where they came from. Perhaps the press is beginning to smell a rat…

  24. S.Scott says:

    @ “Perhaps the press is beginning to smell a rat…
    DC – ” — ooooh! I hope so!

  25. S.Scott says:

    Good news – A source tells me that Duval PROBABLY will not send that resoluion.

  26. dc says:

    The Clay County School Board just approved a modified form of the resolution by a vote of 5-0. 22 of the 27 speakers at the meeting opposed the resolution and they covered pretty much all the bases. Some were quite eloquent, including several retired pastors and two of my former students. The five supporters said nothing we hadn’t heard before although the word dogma and its variants showed up a lot when referring to Darwinism. Two (Including a teacher at my own school. Sigh.) emphasized teaching all the “facts” and letting students decide. I was surprised that the local churches didn’t try to pack the meeting room until someone pointed out that this didn’t start to get publicity until after last Sunday’s services.

    The resolution that passed had two, maybe three significant wording changes made. In paragraph two, the word “fact” at the end of the last line was changed to “theory.” The new line reads, “…direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is clarified as a theory.” The last paragraph was also modified so that the last phrase reads, “…revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is designated as a theory.” I think they also voted to change the word “concept” in the standard to theory (nobody on the board was too sure of what the difference was, the lawyer for the board wouldn’t say anything without first looking it up in a dictionary, and nobody wanted to ask the two actual standards writers in the audience what the difference might mean.) It was all reminiscent of Bacon’s tale of the monks trying to figure out how many teeth a horse has with none of them willing to just look in its mouth and count. I’m pretty sure they made the change. One of the board members said we wouldn’t have spent two hours discussing the resolution if evolution was a fact.

    I wasn’t surprised that the resolution passed but I was dumbfounded when a board member asked about the origins of the resolution, who wrote it and who brought it to the board, and our superintendent, David Owens said he was responsible for, “all of the above.” He said later that he worked with Paula Barton, Superintendent of Schools for Baker County, to write and distribute it. A couple of us are working to get a copy of the recording of the meeting (video and audio). Earlier in the meeting Owens said that everybody in the room was obviously passionate about their ideas and beliefs. He asked how many concepts in science changed over the years when the information changed? How did we know evolution wouldn’t do likewise. We shouldn’t be so dogmatic about this. We should pass this resolution because it reflects our beliefs. Beliefs equals experimental data. No wonder we have such low science scores down here.

    The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults in the future.

  27. Karen R says:

    I just wanted to mention that I have still not received a copy of Hamilton’s resolution. I sent the payment on Monday, and USPS says it’s a maximum of two days there and two days back. I’m not sure what the holdup is… I’ll call on Monday for an update.

  28. Karen R says:

    Schools were closed yesterday, but I just checked with Denise, and she said the supplement would be going out this afternoon. With any luck, I’ll have it tomorrow and will post the full text of their resolution.

  29. S.Scott says:

    Thank you Karen 🙂

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