Science textbook statement from School Board Chair Thomas J. Doland
CONTACT: Debra Marlow
Director, Community Relations
Date: May 23, 2007
For immediate release
Chesterfield County School Board Chair Thomas J. Doland read this statement during the May 22 board meeting. Mr. Doland asked that the statement be included Memorandum No. 45 regarding textbook adoptions for Chesterfield County Public Schools.
"Our vision for this school system is anchored upon the understanding that our schools must be thriving, dynamic, and inspiring educational environments that produce self-directed learners. Self-directed learning occurs only when alternative views are explored and discussed. The unimpeded exploration of different perspectives is essential in this regard, and the School Board wholeheartedly encourages such exploration. We implore our students to expand their knowledge through research, to debate the concepts as presented, and to develop their creative and independent thinking skills.
The Virginia Constitution authorizes the State Board of Education to approve textbooks and instructional aids and materials for use in courses in the public schools of the Commonwealth. The State Board has adopted applicable regulations and our School Board is complying with the Constitution and those regulations as it adopts textbooks for use in Chesterfield County Public Schools. The School Board is cognizant that technology now allows easy access to an almost infinite number of resources facilitating learning. To suggest that we should limit our students' access to specifically approved textbooks and instructional materials would not only inhibit self-directed learning but would also ill-prepare our young people for the challenges that will face them in the competitive global market of the 21st century.
"We have received much interest and concern from our citizens relating to the theory of evolution as taught in our science classes. It is the School Board's belief that this topic, along with all other topics that raise differences of thought and opinion, should receive the thorough and unrestricted study as we have just articulated. Accordingly, we direct our superintendent to charge those of our professionals who support curriculum development and implementation with the responsibility to investigate and develop processes that encompass a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of these topics. We also ask that the Superintendent report to us the results of this assignment and his evaluation of its success.
As it relates to every aspect of our official duties, we have each taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The U.S. Secretary of Education has reminded us that "the First Amendment requires public school officials to be neutral in their treatment of religion, showing neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religious expression. He further states, "[s]tudents may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school." We must never confuse the requirement for religious neutrality of the government with the rights of our students to engage in religious expression. To this end, the School Board directs the Superintendent, the School Board Attorney, and other appropriate members of the staff to instruct all of the Board's employees responsible for the education of our students about these principles that we have sworn to uphold. This instruction shall be accomplished on an ongoing basis with verification provided to the School Board annually."
COMMUNITY RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(804) 748-1433 · fax (804) 768-4383