Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Anti-Science Bill in Virginia

Except for the climate-change debate, we haven't had many anti-science (anti-evolution) flare-ups in Virginia for several years (one in Salem and one in Chesterfield in the 2007-2008 school year). Delegate Bell has introduced legislation previously successful in Louisiana and Tennessee (but unsuccessful in many others) to compromise teaching of evolution in public schools.

- Jim

From the National Center for Science Education:

House Bill 207, the anti-science bill before Virginia's legislature, may have its first hearing as early as Wednesday, January 22. We need your help to stop this bill.
Delegate Dickie Bell

Contact the committee now to stop this bill, and sign up with NCSE to track the bill.

HB 207 is modeled on dangerous antiscience laws passed in Tennessee in 2012 and Louisiana in 2008, and on similar bills rejected in almost a dozen other states over the last decade.

Its sponsor, Richard P. “Dickie” Bell, chairs the House Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, and can be expected to fast-track the bill there, although it is not on the docket yet.

Many lawmakers will make up their minds how to vote before they attend the hearing. It will be easier to reach them and sway them beforehand, through phone calls, e-mails, and personal conversations.

Delegate Richard "Dickie" Bell is the sponsor of HB 207, Virginia's antiscience bill. Under the guise of "academic freedom," Bell's bill would open the door to creationism, climate change denial, and other pseudoscience in public school science classrooms.

Please contact members of the Virginia House Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education and ask them to oppose this dangerous legislation:

Richard P. “Dickie” Bell, chair, (804) 698-1020
Robert H. Brink(804) 698-1048
Mark L. Cole(804) 698-1088
Peter F. Farrell(804) 698-1056
Daun Sessoms Hester(804) 698-1089
James LeMunyon(804) 698-1067
Scott Lingamfelter(804) 698-1031
Joseph Morrisey(804) 698-1074
Brenda L. Pogge(804) 698-1096

Please take a moment to educate and inform the members of the subcommittee and your own representative in the House of Delegates about why HB 207 is dangerous and unnecessary.

Their contact information is in the box at the right.
HB 207 is unnecessary because:
  • Virginia’s science standards are already excellent, having earned a grade of A- in the Fordham Foundation’s last study of state standards
  • helping students to be critical thinkers is already one of the fundamental goals of Virginia’s state science standards
  • neither the state department of education nor the Virginia Association of Science Teachers have endorsed the bill
  • nobody has presented any argument that this bill would provide more protection to teachers than existing law and policy already do
HB 207 is dangerous because:
  • it undermines science instruction by allowing science teachers with fringe ideas to introduce their own “scientific controversies,” while barring administrators from intervening
  • it’s no reassurance that a section of the bill states that religious beliefs can’t be promoted, because creationists insist that their views are scientific, and the bill doesn’t specify otherwise
  • similarly, it also undermines science instruction by allowing science teachers with fringe ideas to undermine their presentation of the scientific material they are expected to present
  • by limiting school administrators’ power to stop teachers from teaching bad science, it opens local school districts and the state to the possibility of costly lawsuits
In communicating with the delegates, remember to be concise, polite, and professional. Emphasize that you are their constituent, or that you are a concerned Virginian contacting them as a member of the subcommittee. If you are a teacher, a scientist, or a parent of school-age children, explain and emphasize your particular reason for concern. There are more tips on writing such letters, and preparing testimony for public meetings, at NCSE's website. Please send along whatever replies you receive in response. This will help us gauge the support or opposition for the bill among the subcommittee members.
If you have not done so already, please also sign up at NCSE's website to get action alerts and news about this effort. Please also share this information with your friends, and urge them to sign up as well. Together we can stop these antiscience bills.

Many thanks,
Glenn Branch, Deputy Director
P.S. NCSE's work is only possible because of the generous support of people like you. Your donation of $10, $35, or even $100 will make us stronger and better prepared for the coming fight.

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