Dover teachers honored by NSTA


The Dover, Pennsylvania, teachers who, in January 2005, refused to read the antievolution disclaimer mandated by the Dover Area School Board were honored by the National Science Teachers Association with its very first Presidential Citation, which recognizes "individuals or organizations who have significantly promoted the profession of science education." The award was accepted by two of the Dover teachers -- Bertha E. Spahr, science department chair and chemistry teacher, and Robert W. Eshbach, biology, environmental science, and ecology teacher -- during a panel discussion of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case on April 6, 2006, held as part of the NSTA's National Conference on Science Education in Anaheim, California.

Presenting the award to Spahr and Esbach, NSTA president Michael Padilla commented, "NSTA and science teachers across the country were inspired by [their] collective stance not to read the statement," and also quipped that the plaque was "a beautiful award that will stand in place with the basketball trophies in the hall" at Dover High School. According to an NSTA press release dated April 7, 2006, "Spahr emphasized that unlike in other parts of the country, the Dover teachers 'stood together in unity' to support the integrity of science education, and they took a great risk, especially since two of the teachers lacked tenure at the time. She noted that the teachers devoted many hours to prepare to testify in the trial and said their role was so crucial because 'students look to us for credibility.'"

Participating in the panel discussion of the case were Bryan Rehm, a Pennsylvania science teacher who formerly taught in the Dover Area School District, one of the eleven plaintiffs in the case, and now a member himself of the Dover Area School Board; Witold J. Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; and expert witnesses Kevin Padian of the University of California, Berkeley, Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, and Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott moderated. According to NSTA's press release, Scott described the outcome of Kitzmiller v. Dover as a "huge setback" for teaching "intelligent design" in science classes, but warned of the likelihood of renewed and more subtle attacks on evolution education.