Calif. school board OKs teaching of creationism City will be sued, dissenter warns

August 15, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

VISTA, Calif. -- The embattled but resilient "Christian right" majority of the Vista school board achieved last week what its three members had been promising for months: It formally opened the door to the teaching of creationism in the city's public schools.

It did so in defiance of California educational guidelines, its own vehement teachers' association and over the complaints of many parents and students at a public meeting Thursday that dragged on past midnight.

By a 3-2 vote, the board ordered that "discussions of divine creation, ultimate purposes, or ultimate causes [the 'why'] shall be included at appropriate times in the history-social sciences and/or English-language arts curricula."

The new policy mandates "exploration and dialogue" of "scientific evidence that challenges any theory in science" and states that "no student shall be compelled to believe or accept any theory presented in the curriculum."

Board President Deidre Holliday, who heads the majority, said the change came at the urging of her constituency: "People kept asking, 'Why can't we have creationism? Why is evolution being taught as fact?'

The policy, which takes effect immediately, threatens to divide further this city of 76,000 in San Diego County.

"Make no mistake -- teaching creationism is illegal. We are going to get sued," said trustee Linda Rhoades. She and board member Sandee Carter have consistently -- but futilely -- opposed the wishes of the other three.

But support for the board's majority was evident last week among students gathered at the Vista Recreation Center, the local bowling alley.

Tom Turner, 14, who will enter Vista High School this fall, said, "I think that if they are able to teach evolution, they should also be giving opinions about the Bible."

Some of the city's outraged citizenry were saying for the first time Friday that a recall drive to remove the three-member majority was now an imminent possibility.

Susie Lange, spokeswoman for the State Department of Education in Sacramento, Calif., said state education officials would "watch the situation closely."

"The law they're in danger of breaking is the constitutional protection against promoting a single religion," Ms. Lange said.

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