Wyoming reacts to the Climate Bill of Rights


The Climate Science Students Bill of Rights, which articulates the principle that all students deserve the best climate science education available as part of a 21st-century science education, was widely discussed in Wyoming. Launched on July 10, 2014, the bill of rights is a joint project of NCSE, the Alliance for Climate Education, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Climate Parents. (Information is available on NCSE's website.)

The interest in the Climate Science Students Bill of Rights on the part of the Wyoming media was unsurprising because, as NCSE previously reported, in March 2014 the state legislature adopted a budget derailing the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards because of concern about the NGSS's inclusion of climate change. The decision attracted, and continues to attract, wide criticism from the scientific and education communities.

As Marguerite Herman of Wyoming for Science Education told WyoFile (July 10, 2014), "Thousands of people in Wyoming and elsewhere were appalled that the deliberate, professional, thorough process of writing quality standards for Wyoming students was stopped by politicians who ... were willing to bar science standards that are recognized as being the best for Wyoming schools."

Thus, the Casper Star-Tribune (July 11, 2014) observed, the new campaign was "[m]otivated in part by Wyoming lawmakers who banned a controversial set of K-12 science benchmarks earlier this year." John Friedrich of Climate Parents told the newspaper, "As we see it, given the impact of climate change that we're already seeing and what scientists say is at stake, ... we just think it's unacceptable for students to be denied information about this crisis." 

NCSE's Mark McCaffrey explained to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (July 14, 2014), "[There are] overt efforts, as we've seen in Wyoming, to deliberately block the access of students to learn about climate science." He added, "And a lot of teachers don't have the background, or they think teaching both sides of a phony science controversy is a good plan." The bill of rights is intended to attract support for the teaching of climate science in the face of such opposition.

As NCSE previously reported, the Wyoming state board of education halted development of a new set of science standards, leaving the old set, adopted in 2008, in force. Local school districts are apparently free to adopt the NGSS, and about fifteen (of forty-eight) have done so. But Marguerite Herman told the Star-Tribune that "we are advocating for the Legislature to act as soon as it convenes to restore the state board's ability to consider all standards."