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Governor petitioned to veto "monkey bill"

A petition urging the veto of House Bill 368, signed by thousands of concerned Tennesseans, was delivered to Governor Bill Haslam's office on April 5, 2012, MSNBC reports (April 5, 2012). Nicknamed the "monkey bill," HB 368 would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

Explaining her opposition to the bill, petition organizer Larisa DeSantis, who teaches in the Department of Earth and Environment at Vanderbilt University, told MSNBC, "What it does is bring the political controversy into the classroom, where there is no scientific controversy," adding, "As a science teacher I would say there is no controversy over evolution or climate change in the scientific literature ... Sure, we argue about the details. But these are core ideas … that are not controversial."

Accompanying the petition was a letter from DeSantis to Governor Haslam, posted at the Nashville Scene (April 6, 2012), in which DeSantis warned, "If this bill is signed into law, students in schools throughout Tennessee ... will suffer the consequences. Scientific literacy is an increasingly important factor for college acceptance and job prospects. ... At a time when we all need to be taking great leaps forward in our collective understanding of a rapidly changing world, this bill will be pulling us back."

Also opposing the bill have been the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association.

Additionally, Gera Summerford, the president of the Tennessee Education Association, which represents public teachers in the Volunteer State, told the Wall Street Journal (April 5, 2012) that her organization regards the bill as "unnecessary legislation" that attempts to "micromanage curriculum": "There's no need for this," she said. Nevertheless, Governor Haslam, who must sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it by April 10, 2012, is expected to sign it, a spokesperson told the newspaper.