In other news, the Cobb County sticker kerfuffle has now been settled.
You might recall that this was the case where a small Georgia school district decided to paste warning labels inside their high school biology textbooks. The labels asserted the following:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
Some parents in the district sued, claiming a First Amendment violation. The Judge agreed, and found that the stickers were unconstitutional.
The case was subsequently appealed to a three judge panel. Two of the judges were known to be very conservative, and the oral arguments did not go especially well for the good guys. Surprisingly, however, the panel did not vote to overturn the decision. Instead they vacated the decision, claiming that certain of the facts upon which the trial judge based his opinion were not adequately documented in the record. They kicked it back to the trial court for further review.
And that brings us to the present. Here’s the press release from the school district:
The Cobb County Board of Education has reached an agreement with plaintiffs to end a lawsuit over stickers addressing evolution that were placed in science textbooks. After more than four years the agreement brings to conclusion the legal action taken against the school district by Cobb citizen Jeffrey Selman in 2002.
In January 2005, Judge Clarence Cooper ruled the stickers unconstitutional and ordered them removed from the science textbooks. The stickers were removed later that summer. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court vacated Judge Cooper’s decision and remanded the case to the lower court.
“We are very pleased to reach this agreement and end the lawsuit,” said Cobb County Board of Education Chair Dr. Teresa Plenge. “After the 11th Circuit Court vacated the decision, we faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial. With this agreement, it is done, and we now have a clean slate going into the New Year.”
Under the agreement, the District will not attempt to place the same, or similar, stickers in textbooks again. In return, plaintiffs have agreed to end all legal action against the school district. In a separate agreement, the District has agreed to pay $166,659, which represents a portion of the plaintiff’s legal fees.
“Appealing the lower court ruling was the right decision by the school board because that ruling was incorrect,” said Dr. Plenge. “The Board maintains that the stickers were constitutional, but, at the same time, the Board clearly sees the need to put this divisive issue behind us. There will be no stickers in textbooks, and, as always, we will continue to provide Cobb County students a curriculum that follows national and state standards in teaching science and the theory of evolution.”
Short version: The good guys score a complete victory.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and state offered these thoughts on the matter:
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today lauded a Georgia public school board’s decision to drop its defense of anti-evolution disclaimers for science textbooks.
The Cobb County School Board has agreed to settle the long-running legal fracas over its 2002 decision to place anti-evolution stickers in high school biology textbooks.
In an agreement announced today, Cobb County school officials state that they will not order the placement of “any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other warnings or disclaimers bearing language substantially similar to that used on the sticker that is the subject of this action.” School officials also agreed not to take other actions that would undermine the teaching of evolution in biology classes.
&lduqo;Cobb County school officials have taken the right step to ensure that their students receive a quality education,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Students should be taught sound science, and the curriculum should not be altered at the behest of aggressive religious groups.”