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Rio Rancho School Board Amends Science Policy


On April 10, 2006 the school board in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, voted 4-1 to amend their Science Policy 401. According to an article in the April 11 issue of the Albuquerque Journal, the policy, adopted in August, 2005 by a 3-2 vote, had been strongly opposed by district science teachers and others because of wording which seemed to promote teaching intelligent design. A board member who has opposed the policy told the Journal that it was "... a backdoor policy for intelligent design... a backdoor for religion." The article also observes that "Opponents of the policy, many of them teachers at the high school, have claimed the policy is a guise to force instructors to teach intelligent design."

One of the board members who proposed Policy 401 told the Journal that it "encourages critical thinking", and that they did not intend to introduce religion into classes. Two board members apologized to the district's science teachers for having introduced and passed the policy without consulting with them first.

In amending Policy 401, the board removed this sentence from its last paragraph: "When appropriate and consistent with the New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards, discussions about issues that are of interest to both science and individual religious and philosophical beliefs will acknowledge that reasonable people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data." This was replaced by a sentence taken directly from New Mexico's state science standards: "Students shall understand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of the earth)."

Another news report on the board meeting and policy is available from the April 13, 2006 Rio Rancho Observer.

Update: In a December 4, 2007, post at The Panda's Thumb blog, Marshall Berman, Kim Johnson, and Dave Thomas reported, "After producing division and confusion for more than two years in Rio Rancho (New Mexico) science classes, the Rio Rancho School Board formally terminated the ill-fated experiment known as 'Policy 401.' First passed in August of 2005, the policy did not mention 'Intelligent Design' (ID) by name, but was perceived by the community and press as favorable to ID and creationism arguments, and as encouraging discussion of these 'alternatives' to evolution."

Revised on March 24, 2009, to add the final paragraph.