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"Alternative Theories" Legislation in Alabama

On February 17, Senate Bill 336 -- entitled the "Academic Freedom Act" -- was introduced in the Alabama state Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee. (A similar bill, HB391, was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives on February 12, and referred to the House's Education Committee.) If enacted, SB 336 would provide teachers and instructors at public institutions "the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of biological or physical origins," and protection from penalties for teaching alternatives. The bill would also provide a student the right "to a particular position on biological or physical origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course material." Section 5 of the bill stipulates that the "rights and privileges contained in this act do not apply unless the subject of biological or physical origins is raised in the context of approved curricula material."

The text of SB 336 follows:

SB336
61117-3
By Senators Mitchell, Waggoner, French, Lee, Erwin, Byrne, Dial, Figures, Escott, and Ross
RFD: Education
First Read: 17-FEB-04

SYNOPSIS: Existing law does not expressly provide a right nor does it expressly protect tenure and employment for a public school teacher or teacher at an institution of higher education for presenting scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative positions in curricula being taught or in a course of learning on the subject of biological or physical origins. In addition, students are not expressly provided a right to a position on biological or physical origins.

This bill would expressly provide rights and protection for teachers and students concerning their position on biological or physical origins.

A BILL
TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

Providing teacher rights and protection for a public school teacher or teacher at an institution of higher education to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative positions on the subject of biological or physical origins in applicable curricula or in a course of learning; providing employment and tenure protection and protection against discrimination for any public school teacher or teacher at a public institution of higher education related to the presentation of scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative positions on the subject of biological or physical origins in applicable curricula or in a course of learning; and providing student protection for subscribing to a particular position on biological or physical origins.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Section 1. This law shall be known as the "Academic Freedom Act."

Section 2. Every K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of biological or physical origins in any curricula or course of learning.

Section 3. No K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall be terminated, disciplined, denied tenure, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of biological or physical origins in any curricula or course of learning.

Section 4. No student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on biological or physical origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course materials.

Section 5. The rights and privileges contained in this act do not apply unless the subject of biological or physical origins is raised in the context of approved curricula material.

Section 6. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

[SB336, pdf downloaded on 02/19/04 from ALISON, text copied with page numbers and line numbers removed]