Florida law allows any parent to challenge how evolution, climate change are taught in schools

It looks like the lessons of the Scopes Monkey trial have not yet been absorbed in Florida

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 3, 2017 9:05AM (EDT)

Gov. Rick Scott             (AP/Chris O'meara)
Gov. Rick Scott (AP/Chris O'meara)

Less than a week after satellite temperature data was revised and the full extent of global warming became even clearer, Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill that will make it easier for any Florida resident to object to science-based education in the classroom.

The statute, which went into effect on July 1, forces school boards to hire an "unbiased hearing officer" who will look into complaints about instructional materials, according to a report by The Washington Post. The main proponents of the law, a group called the Florida Citizens Alliance, have argued that state-approved textbooks are "too liberal."

“Purchased at taxpayer expense, these materials teach our children that European Socialism is better than free markets and that the government is the answer to every problem,” the group complains on its website.

Although the guidelines single out material that parents believe may be "pornographic" or "is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group," affidavits filed by the law's backers indicate that they will take shots at science education. One complainant filed an affidavit complaining that creationism wasn't taught alongside evolution even though "the two main theories on the origin of man are the theory of evolution and creationism." Another argued that global warming and evolution shouldn't be taught as "reality."

As Brandon Haught, the communications director for Florida Citizens for Science, wrote in a blog post on the new law, "You must keep an eye on your local school board and everyone who brings forth a complaint about textbooks. If you don’t, we truly lose. At this point the fight is at the local level. If you’re not there and willing to stand up for sound science education, then we’re done."

He later added, regarding a so-called Religious Liberties bill that was signed into law on June 9, "Part of that new law states: 'A school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.' We already know for a fact that at least one organization will combine both laws in their crusade against what they view as in balanced inaccuracies in Florida textbooks."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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