Dover Lawsuit Update.

Two interesting developments over the last few days. First, the science teachers have banded together to ask that they not be required to read the ridiculous statement that the school board passed as a disclaimer to their students. From the York Daily Record:

All but one teacher in the Dover Area School District's high school science department signed a letter Thursday requesting that they be allowed to "opt out" of reading the "Intelligent Design Theory" statement meant for students.

"We do not believe this is science," said high school science teacher Jen Miller...

"We believe that reading the ('intelligent design') statement violates our responsibility as educators as set forth in the code," Miller said. "Students are allowed to opt out from hearing the statement. We should be allowed to opt out from reading it."

The one teacher who did not sign the letter does not teach biology.

Yesterday, the administration granted that request and will have administrators go into the science classes to read the disclaimer instead of teachers. But that led to this amusing lie told by the head of the legal group that is defending the school district:

Richard Thompson, the district's chief counsel from Thomas More center, called the teachers' request to opt out a "tempest in a teapot."

"It is ironic that this policy was enacted with the input of the very teachers who are now attempting to sabotage it," he said.

Bowser disagreed with Thompson regarding the teachers' input.

"We gave no input at all into the statement or the curriculum change as it is presently written," she said. "We have tried to compromise, but at this point the state standards of education and the Constitution must be upheld."

Mr. Thompson is lying. From the very beginning, the teachers objected to this policy and complained that they had had no role in formulating it. In fact, their union representatives had to publicly demand that the administration provide them with written responses to possible questions because the teachers refused to answer questions on their own and face possible disciplinary or legal action:

Last month, Michael Baksa, assistant superintendent, said the administration will eventually sit down with the teachers and decide how questions relating to intelligent design will be handled.

But Miller said the union wants nothing to do with that.

"If we have any directional discussions with the administration on how to answer these questions, it implies that we are cooperating on the issue," Miller said. "And that sets us up to be a sort of shield (if there is any future litigation). If given a direction by the administration, we will not be insubordinate. But they must be the ones to say how we answer the students in this area."

Also see this statement from the head of the science department:

Last month, assistant supt. Michael Baksa said he would work with the science department to help it prepare what it could and could not say in response to questions that may turn out to be religious in nature.

But Spahr said her department will not offer its assistance. To do so, she said, implies it supports intelligent design in the classroom.

"We will not be insubordinate," she said. "If the administration or board comes up with pre-written responses to questions, we will read them. But we will not help prepare them."

As the last article notes, only one science teacher was involved in any way with the formulation of that policy, and she was only asked to edit the statement. She had no role in writing it and did not, and does not, support it:

Spahr said science teacher Jen Miller edited the statement, but that no one in the science department helped write it. Spahr said a problem could occur after the statement is read to the students. Once this topic is introduced, Miller said, she wonders how many questions will be asked as a result.

"I'm trained to teach to state standards," Miller said. "('Intelligent design') is currently not listed in those standards."

Miller said she hopes it will be enough to read the statement or refer students to the "Pandas" book. But she realizes that students have the right to discuss curriculum items in class.

"This is all new and something we are not prepared for," she said. "I worry that something I say could cause me to end up in some sort of litigation."

Spahr said the science teachers feel like they're in a battle that can't be won.

"The Supreme Court has said it's unconstitutional to teach creation in the classroom," she said. "So we either risk violating a school board directive or risk breaking the law. What are we to do?"

So when Mr. Thompson says that the school board's policy was "enacted with the input of the very teachers who are now attempting to sabotage it," he is simply lying. It was not enacted with any input from the teachers and the teachers have been opposed to it from the very start, so much so that they have contemplated filing their own suit against the school board. Pretty shameful behavior from the head of an overtly Christian legal group. I guess that bearing false witness thing doesn't matter if there's a political battle to be won.

Lastly, a group of scientists and philosophers from the University of Pennsylvania have written an open letter to the Dover school board telling them that their new policy seriously compromises the quality of science education in the school district. This follows on the heels of a similar letter written last month by the biology faculty at York College. So the science teachers are opposed to it, scientists whose life's work is biology are opposed to it, even the major ID think tank is opposed to it (but only because they know the legal case is weak and could set a precedent that kills their entire plan) - why exactly is the school board still doing this and the Thomas More Law Center still defending it? Oh yeah, school board member William Buckingham gave the reason: because "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross" and he felt the need to "take a stand for him". But remember, they aren't motivated by religious zeal and you're a dirty rotten book banning communist if you dare to say they are.

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Looks like that isn't the only lying that's been going on. From the York Daily Record of January 7, 2005:

[S]chool board members Alan Bonsell, Bill Buckingham and Sheila Harkins and district Supt. Richard Nilsen denied or didn't recall earlier statements about why the board wanted to include intelligent design... ."

Yeah. Right. Can you say "impeachment"?

Ed, have you seen deposition transcripts anywhere? I checked the ACLU and AU websites and didn't see anything.

Ed, have you seen deposition transcripts anywhere? I checked the ACLU and AU websites and didn't see anything.
I have not seen them, and I'm not sure if they'll be put up or not. I have a friend who is on the national board of AU and I'm going to see him next week, I'll have to see if he can get ahold of them.

There are a few snippets from the depositions in the York Daily Record here.

It seems like they are dancing all around trying to make it appear as if religion has nothing to do with this. B

There are a few snippets from the depositions in the York Daily Record...

Yes, I've seen those. I'm hoping that one of the plaintiffs' counsel will make available the complete transcripts so we can all enjoy the full extent of the "dancing" that is going on. While sudden-onset amnesia is not uncommon in litigants who have something to hide, the attorney counseling a client in that situation must be careful that the client's prior inconsistent statements haven't been preserved on the record somewhere (for example, in a newspaper). Based on what I've seen, the School Board defendants are going to have some real problems there.

Yes, I've seen those. I'm hoping that one of the plaintiffs' counsel will make available the complete transcripts so we can all enjoy the full extent of the "dancing" that is going on. While sudden-onset amnesia is not uncommon in litigants who have something to hide, the attorney counseling a client in that situation must be careful that the client's prior inconsistent statements haven't been preserved on the record somewhere (for example, in a newspaper). Based on what I've seen, the School Board defendants are going to have some real problems there.
I know that one of the issues at this point is that the Dover school board records all of their meetings on audiotape, but the tapes are destroyed after some period of time, perhaps after the written minutes are destroyed. The local paper reported that the school board members who supported it, especially Buckingham, spoke in almost exclusively religious terms when discussing why they were doing it. They now all are claiming that they don't recall and, what a surprise, the tapes have been destroyed. But they'll have a hard time getting around the multiple press reports quoting them, I imagine.

My impression is that the tape is for the benefit of the person doing the minutes. Once they are done, it is typically reused.

The tape of the Rhea County Commissioner's meeting where they "banned gays from the county" was still available. Your idiot(s) of the month award was more than justified.

I remember the James (Jimmy) Hoffa hearings were on TV when I was a kid. He made the response, "To the best of my recollection, I cannot recall" claim so often that it became a household phrase. Kids particularly picked it up in the hopes of staying out of trouble. Worked for him, didn't it? Trouble was, it doesn't work with parents. Oh, well, worth a try!