Category: Education

First-grade public school teacher’s ‘daily Bible verse’ angers parents in Texas district

By Brandon Mulder

Parents of students in a Texas public school district have taken issue with an online video a first-grade teacher showing her class repeating Bible verses, apparently in violation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down school-sponsored Bible readings and prayer.

The video, which was posted to Facebook on Nov. 1 by Susan Schobel, a teacher at Brown Primary School in the Smithville Independent School District, shows her classroom sitting in a circle repeating Romans 12:9-10.

“Start your day with a good Bible verse and life just seems better!!” Schobel wrote in the video’s caption. “This is our daily Bible verse.”

The video was removed several days later, but not before a copy was saved by at least one parent and shared with the Smithville Times newspaper.

“This is not okay,” wrote Ashley Nicole, who has a child at Brown Primary, in a letter to the school district. “I am truly shocked. I am concerned about how this is getting handled.”

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New Arizona K-12 science standards recognize evolution

By Lily Altavena

The Arizona State Board of Education approved revised science and history standards on Monday, shrugging off outgoing State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace all the standards with a set from a conservative college in Michigan.

The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”

The revised standards will be used by K-12 public district and charter schools statewide. Their approval received thunderous applause from educators and education advocates sitting in the boardroom.

Douglas’ motion to adopt the Hillsdale standards was met with silence from state board members. Not one seconded her motion and the proposal failed.

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Atheist Group Calls for Arkansas Razorbacks Coaches to Stop Praying with Players

By Hemant Mehta

Here’s some life advice for Christian athletes and coaches everywhere. If your public university is breaking the law by letting coaches praying with athletes on the field, don’t brag about it online.

Julian B. Griffin, the Offensive Quality Control coach at the University of Arkansas, tweeted this picture of Associate Head Coach Jeff Traylor praying with athletes.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is now calling on the university to put a stop to this unconstitutional promotion of religion. Legal Fellow Colin McNamara notes that state schools cannot lead players in on-field prayers.

… Coaches should be aware of the tremendous influence they have on their athletes. Coach Traylor, Coach Griffin, and rest of the staff control over players’ positions, playing time, and in some cases, their very futures. Injecting religion into this coercive relationship is inappropriate and constitutionally suspect.

Of course, nothing in this letter or in the law prevents students who wish to pray by themselves or with each other from doing so. The issue is not with prayer itself, but with officers of the state using their positions of influence to promote their personal religion.

Will anyone notice that FFRF has no problem with the athletes praying alone or with each other? I doubt it. This issue is about power and coercion, not the act of praying itself. Now it’s up to the university to make sure it’s not violating the law.

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Creationist Who Said He Supported “Fact-Based Curriculum” Wins School Board Race

Darrell Furgason just won an election to the Chilliwack School District Board (in British Columbia), and that may seem like good news if you glance at his platform and believe he truly supports “Academic Excellence,” “Inclusivity for all,” and a “Quality, fact-based curriculum.”

It’s too bad he doesn’t actually believe any of those things.

Furgason is actually an anti-LGBTQ Young Earth Creationist whose primary allegiance is to the Bible and not the students. We know this because of posts he’s made on Facebook as director of the Worldview Studies Center, a Christian non-profit.

And now he’s one of seven trustees who will run the school board, joined by fellow Christian bigot Barry Neufeld who recently referred to transgender students as victims of “child abuse.” (Both men ran on what critics dubbed the “Hate Slate.”)

Heather Maahs, who also got elected, wasn’t part of the Hate Slate, but she still had the support of Neufeld and Furgason.

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Pence’s Religious Freedom Policy Made ‘LGBQ’ Hoosiers Sick—Literally

By Sunnivie Brydum

new study reveals the scope of psychological damage done by Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning Hoosiers. Although the study, led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research, stops short of suggesting Indiana’s law directly caused LGBQ people to feel physically or mentally unwell, researchers noted that Indiana was the only state of 21 studied where LGBQ people reported a significant spike in the number of “unhealthy days” over the course of that year.
Not only was Indiana the only state whose LGBQ residents reported more “unhealthy days” in 2015, but the number of LGBQ people experiencing those days for at least half the month had nearly doubled between the first and last quarter of the year. Then-Governor Mike Pence signed the first iteration of Indiana’s RFRA on March 26, and then amended it a week later amid national backlash in an effort “clarify” that the law did not void existing non-discrimination protections. But the damage was already done.
The study analyzed 2015 data reported by 21 states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, focusing on the self-reported mental health of 5,000 people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or “unsure” of their sexual orientation. Researchers compared the number of “unhealthy days” reported by residents of each state, using the CDC definition of “the total number of days in the past 30 that people reported that their physical and mental heath were not good,” according to the press release announcing the study’s findings. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System does include a question that allows participants to identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming, but states are not required to include that question in their surveys.

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The removal of Darwin and evolution from schools is a backwards step

By Michael Dixon

In recent weeks there have been alarming reports from both Israel and Turkey of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution being erased from school curriculums. In Turkey, this has been blamed on the concept of evolution – which is taught in British primary schools – being beyond the understanding of high school students. In Israel, teachers are claiming that most students do not learn about evolution; they say their education ministry is quietly encouraging teachers to focus on other topics in biology.

This news follows the astonishing statements made by India’s minister for higher education earlier this year. Satyapal Singh claimed Darwin was “scientifically wrong”, and is demanding that the theory of evolution be removed from school curriculums because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

It is tempting to shrug off these latest attacks on Darwin’s greatest contribution to natural science. After all, no other scientific theory has attracted the same level of impassioned opposition and detraction – certainly not for more than 150 years. But that would be to miss the particular urgency of improving our scientific understanding of the natural world and how best to protect it for the future.

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Scientists: Don’t let Arizona superintendent Diane Douglas ‘sabotage’ evolution

By Laurie Roberts

A group of scientists – read: people who don’t believe that dinosaurs marched two-by-two into Noah’s Ark – is asking the Arizona Board of Education not to let Superintendent Diane Douglas “sabotage” the scientific literacy of our kids.

Specifically, they are asking the board to ignore Douglas, who seems determined to insert a little Sunday school into science class by casting doubt on whether evolution occurred.

So determined, in fact, that she recently asked a creationist – a guy who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs were passengers on Noah’s Ark – to look over the proposed science standards.

Yep, she did that.

Cue the collective horror of a group of Arizona university science professors, among them a recipient of The Nobel Prize.

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Taxpayers Fund Creationist Textbooks for Religious Schools in New Jersey

By David G. McAfee

As public schools in New Jersey are struggling for funding, the state’s citizens are footing the bill for Creationist “textbooks” used in private religious institutions.

State funds were used to buy dozens of copies of a “textbook” with a clear bias in favor of religion, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Books for religious teaching are not supposed to be purchased with state grant money, but one of the private school texts, titled “Fundamentals of Life Science,” promotes a “greater appreciation of the greatness of Hashem and His magnificent creations,” according to the book’s cover posted on Amazon.com. Hashem, a transliteration of Hebrew, is a word used in place of God.

About 60 copies of the 198-page book written by Rabbi Yaakov Lubin were purchased last year through the state grant program.

The Press asked the New Jersey Department of Education, which administers the textbook grant program, about foreign language texts and the books with religious themes — and whether they were allowed under state rules. In response, a department spokesman said state staff were reviewing how textbook grant funds were spent in Lakewood.

“I can tell you that we are looking into it,” education department spokesman Michael Yaple said, adding he could not provide further information about the review.

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Betsy DeVos wants to allow schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students in secret

By John Gallagher

While the president’s tweets get all the attention, the damage being done by his minion’s policy changes often escape notice. In the latest example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to make it easy for Christian schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students without having to reveal their bias to the government.

At issue are regulations under Title IX, the federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of gender. Advocates, including Department of Education employees, have been concerned from early in DeVos’s tenure that watering down that protection will have an outsized impact on LGBTQ students.

In the past, schools have been able to opt out of complying with the law if they cite a religious exemption. However, the Obama administration required the schools to submit a letter explaining their request for an exemption. The list of schools was then published online. 

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Texas board votes to eliminate Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller from history curriculum

By Lauren McGaughy

History curriculum in Texas remembers the Alamo but could soon forget Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller.

As part of an effort to “streamline” the social studies curriculum in public schools, the State Board of Education voted Friday to adjust what students in every grade are required to learn in the classroom. Among the changes, board members approved the removal of several historical figures, including Clinton and Keller, from the curriculum.

The board also voted to keep in the curriculum a reference to the “heroism” of the defenders of the Alamo, which had been recommended for elimination, as well as Moses’ influence on the writing of the nation’s founding documents, multiple references to “Judeo-Christian” values and a requirement that students explain how the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” in the Middle East.

The vote Friday was preliminary. The board can amend the curriculum changes further before taking a final vote in November.

Barbara Cargill, a Republican board member from Houston and former chairwoman, said work groups recommended removing Clinton and Keller, and the board agreed.

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