According to the York Daily Record (Joseph Maldonado, "Dover teachers want out [Link broken]," January 7,
2005), eight science teachers at Dover Senior High School have refused to
"intelligent design" and "gaps/problems" policy mandated by the Dover Area
School Board [Link broken]. On January 6, 2005, the teachers sent a letter to the district
superintendent, Dr. Richard Nilsen, indicating their refusal to read a verbal
disclaimer, which over
four paragraphs states that [Link broken] evolution is a "Theory...not a fact," that "Gaps
in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence," and that "intelligent
design" is a valid scientific alternative. The disclaimer refers students
to the supplementary intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People
(see the extensive NCSE
Resources page on Pandas). The admistration is allowing students to
"opt-out" of the lesson, therefore the science teachers stated that they also
wished to "opt-out."
The teacher request is based entirely on professional grounds as laid out in
Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators [Link broken]. The teachers state
that "intelligent design" and Of Pandas and People are not good science
and conclude that teaching intelligent design would violate their professional
On January 7, 2005, the administration for the Dover Area School District
agreed to the teachers' request. According to an Associated
Press story [Link broken], the disclaimer will be read by school district administrators
rather than teachers. The story quotes Richard Thompson, president of
the Thomas More Law Center and chief
counsel for the school district. He said, "The Dover faculty have no right to
opt out of a legal directive....Having said that, because there is pending
litigation ... we are going to accommodate their request."
The letter from Dover science teachers has been made public and is reproduced
To: Dr. Richard Nilsen
Date: January 6, 2005
Re: Reading Statement on Intelligent Design
We have individually reviewed the statement you presented yesterday for
presentation to our students at the beginning of the Biology unit dealing with
evolution. You have indicated that students may "opt-out" of this portion of
the class and that they will be excused and monitored by an administrator. We
respectfully exercise our right to "opt-out" of the statement portion of the
class. We will relinquish the classroom to an administrator and we will
monitor our own students. This request is based upon our considered opinion
that reading the statement violates our responsibilities as professional
educators as set forth in the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for
Educators promulgated by the Professional Standards and Practices Commission
and found at 22 Pa. Code section 235.1 et.seq. As noted in the
introductory paragraph of the Code, section 235.2 (a): "Generally, the
responsibility for professional conduct rests with the individual professional
educator." Further, the Code provides in section 235.2 (b): "This chapter
makes explicit the values of the education profession. When individuals become
educators in this Commonwealth, they make a moral commitment to uphold these
Central to the teaching act and our ethical obligation is the solemn
responsibility to teach the truth. Section 235.10 (2) guides our relationships
with students and provides that "The professional educator may not Knowingly
and intentionally misrepresent subject matter or curriculum."
INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT SCIENCE. INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT BIOLOGY.
INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT AN ACCEPTED SCIENTIFIC THEORY.
I believe that if I as the classroom teacher read the required statement,
my students will inevitably (and understandably) believe that
Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory, perhaps on par with the
theory of evolution. That is not true. To refer the students to "Of Pandas and
People" as if it is a scientific resource breaches my ethical obligation to
provide them with scientific knowledge that is supported by recognized
scientific proof or theory.
Reading the statement places us in violation of the following ethical
obligations. Section 235.3 of the Code requires Professional educators to
develop "sound educational policy" and obligates us "to implement that
policy." Section 235.3 (b) makes it explicit that "Professional educators
recognize their primary responsibility to the student and the development of
the student's potential. Central to that development is the professional
educator's valuing the pursuit of truth; devotion to excellence; acquisition
of knowledge; and democratic principles." The same section goes on to provide:
"Educators encourage and support the use of resources that best serve the
interests and needs of students. Within the context of professional
experience, the educator and the student together explore the challenge and
the dignity of the human experience." Section 235.4 (b) (2) provides:
"Professional educators shall be prepared, and legally certified, in their
areas of assignment. Educators may not be assigned or willingly accept
assignments they are not certified to fulfill." Section 235.5(b) (8) provides:
"Professional educators shall be open-minded, knowledgeable and use
appropriate judgement and communication skills when responding to an issue
within the educational environment." Section 235.4 (b) (10) provides:
"Professional educators shall exert reasonable effort to protect the student
from conditions which interfere with learning or are harmful to the student's
health and safety."
Pennsylvanians concerned about the antievolution policy passed by the Dover
Area School Board are encouraged to contact Nick Matzke
Maldonado, Joseph (2005). "Dover
teachers want out [Link broken]." York Daily Record, January 7, 2005.
Raffaele, Martha (2005). "District
Loosens 'Intelligent Design' Rule [Link broken]." Associated Press, January 7, 2005.
School District [Link broken] (2004). Press
Release for Biology Curriculum [Link broken]. December 14, 2004.
School District [Link broken] (2004). Biology
Curriculum [Link broken] (pdf format). November 2004.