To: Members of School Board of Knox County, Tennessee
Dear School Board Member:
I read with dismay of the recent attempt at censorship in your school district against Tobin and Dusheck's biology textbook Asking About Life. I urge the School Board to respect the Establishment and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by retaining the book in classroom curricula.
I have reviewed the contested section of the textbook, and find nothing that raises the slightest concern about its fairness, its scientific or historical accuracy, or its suitability for educational purposes. Tennessee State education standards require teaching evolution in Biology II and Advanced Placement Biology, and it is impossible to fulfill this mandate without offending the religious sensibilities of some constituents.
By removing Asking About Life from the curriculum, the board will be violating the constitutional rights of students, parents, and teachers in at least two ways. First, you will be subordinating sound scientific education to one particular religious perspective, an entanglement with religion that a public school, as an agency of government, cannot engage in. Secondly, you will be censoring a book on the basis of of the board's sense of religious or political orthodoxy, something a school board cannot do, regardless of the subject matter in question.
Before you make your decision, I urge the board to seek competent legal advice about the applicability of prior court decisions to the specifics of the situation at hand. Hopefully, the school district has its own attorney or has access to the county's attorney. I suggest giving careful consideration to the implications of the Kitzmiller v. Dover (400 F. Supp. 2d 707) and Edwards v. Aguillard (482 U.S. 578) decisions regarding creationism and the teaching of science in public schools. Consideration should also be given to Minarcini v. Strongsville (541 F.2d 577) and Board V. Pico (457 U.S. 853), to name but two precedents that establish limits on the power of school boards to censor books in an attempt to enforce ideological orthodoxy.
If the board makes the wrong choice by removing Asking About Life from curricula, it will only take one aggrieved parent to drag the district into a costly lawsuit that the district is almost certain to loose. Please give careful consideration to the budgetary implications of your decision.
Thank you for your consideration.