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Oklahoma okay at last

When the Oklahoma legislature adjourned sine die on May 25, 2012, no fewer than three legislative attempts to attack the teaching of evolution and of climate change were finally laid to rest. All three would have encouraged teachers in the public schools of the Sooner State to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming."

Senate Bill 1742 was explicitly modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008 as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1. The sole sponsor of SB 1742 was Josh Brecheen (R-District 6). It was his second attempt at antievolution legislation; in 2011, he introduced Senate Bill 554, which he described in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010) as "requiring every publically [sic] funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution." SB 1742 died in committee on March 1, 2012.

House Bill 1551 was originally introduced by Sally Kern (R-District 84) and was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in 2011, but it was resurrected by Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) and passed by that committee, which heard no testimony from the public, in 2012. HB 1551 passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012. The bill was then sent to the Senate Education Committee, where it died on April 5, 2012, the deadline for single-assigned house bills (such as HB 1551) to be reported from their senate committees.

A last-ditch effort was a proposal from Steve Russell (R-District 45) to amend House Bill 2341, which dealt with unrelated educational matters (extending a deadline by which local school districts are required to meet certain standards for media, equipment, and textbooks) and was passed by the House on March 7, 2012, to include the language of HB 1551. The amendment would have been considered when the bill came to a floor vote in the Senate, but it was not brought to the floor before April 26, 2012, the deadline for bills to receive their third reading in the opposite house.

Organizations opposing these efforts to attack the teaching of evolution and of climate change included the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and — as always — the indefatigable grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.