Florida School Board Harassment Bill Passes

The strange bill we wrote about back in February — see More Weird Legislation Proposed in Florida — has become law. Well, it’s awaiting the Governor’s signature.

As you may recall, this thing is different from the usual Discoveroid “strengths and weaknesses” bill. We quoted our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) who said:

A pair of bills introduced in the Florida legislature — House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210 — are ostensibly aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools, for example on the grounds that they fail to provide “a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” There is reason to believe that evolution and climate change are among the targets.

Despite objections from rational groups, the legislature passed the law. NCSE just posted Antiscience bill passed in Florida. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

A Florida bill aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools, with climate change and evolution clearly among the targets, is now headed to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for a signature. The bill in question is House Bill 989, which the House of Representatives passed in April 2017. A similar bill, Senate Bill 1210, was making its way through the Senate, but was abandoned in favor of HB 989, which the Senate then passed on a 19-17 vote on May 5, 2017.

Here’s a link to the final bill, which shows all the changes that were made as it worked its way through the legislature.

NCSE is concerned that school boards will be bombarded with complaints by people who want certain books banned because they object to their contents. The statute says that those who complain can either be parents of students in the local schools, or residents of the county where the school board functions. In other words, any creationist drooler can harass his local school board. However, after giving the drooler a hearing, the decision of the school board is final.

Naturally, there is reason to worry about creationist campaigns seeking to ban texts that don’t agree with their religious beliefs. However, your Curmudgeon thinks that there may be some good in this legislation.

What possible good do we see? Consider this. Those who complain about educational materials aren’t required to be creationists. They can also be rational, science-minded persons and groups. Therefore, if creationist materials are being used in school, the procedures described in the new legislation allow sensible people to object to such materials. In other words, although the creationists probably didn’t intend it, this law is a two-edged sword.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Florida School Board Harassment Bill Passes

  1. Our Curmudgeon looks for a silver lining on a dark cloud:

    if creationist materials are being used in school, the procedures described in the new legislation allow sensible people to object to such materials.

    But can’t sensible people–like the Kitzmillers–already make such objections, and litigate if necessary, using existing legislation?

  2. It really is my keyboard letting me down! In place of “objects”, read “objections”!

    [*Voice from above*] It’s a Sapiens keyboard, and the only communications instrument your species is capable of using is drum made out of a hollow log.

  3. The Lemon test used by the Supreme Court says that to be constitutional any law must pass 3 requirements.
    1) Must have clear non-religious purpose.
    This could be a problem. Supporters of the law would say the purpose is better education, but allowing anyone to object to anything, regardless of evidence or merit, would be a formula for paralysis, not advancement.
    2) Must not advance or inhibit religion.
    Might be ok, but not if many of the objections are clearly religiously motivated. Considering the penchant creationists have for shooting their mouths off…
    3) Must not create “excessive entanglement” of government in religious matters.
    Again, if the objections are religiously motivated, then serious entanglement will ensue.

    Could this lead to the next Dover/Scopes trial? I doubt it, the whole thing sound too stupid to take seriously. The ID-ers at least claimed to have proof of the existence of God, this laws sounds like it will provide only abundant proof of the existence of opinionated idiots.

  4. Holding the Line in Florida

    Oh Boy!!! I can’t wait! But then again, our books for the 7th Grade are so diluted that it would be difficult to object to much. However, my own classes which are heavy duty “evilution, genetic engineering and climate change” might come in for objection if someone called for it. But I don’t think so. I always give “a non-inflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” I just deal with reality and explain how previously held ideas were shown to be simply wrong. Some topics that could be construed as religious in nature might just be right up there with Bigfoot and Nessie which I cover. I use them to show the importance of evidence and how it can be used to try to give the kids some concept of dealing with reality despite cherished beliefs. I find it interesting that of course that only Public Education is targeted. Charters and Private schools are exempt.

  5. A Florida bill aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools…

    Those on the science side of things should become as active as the creationists, filing as many complaints as possible concerning the anti-science, watered-down science, or just plain nuttiness that is in the instructional materials lately.

    If nothing else, just clog up the system. Otherwise the creationists could be going unopposed in many districts.

  6. Remember that the Heartland Institute have financed the production of school lesson plans that teach the Heartland version of climate science.the Act could be used against these, if they are deployed in Florida. It could also be used against textbooks that described the historical fact of evolution as unproven

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