ACLU to Gilbert Schools Board: Don’t Censor or Remove Honors Biology Textbook

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
October 15, 2014 12:00 am

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GILBERT – The ACLU of Arizona late Tuesday sent a letter to the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board, urging them to allow science teachers to continue using the district’s honors biology textbook.

“We can’t let bias and politics dictate what should be discussed in science classrooms,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Suppressing facts that some people or organizations find disagreeable sets a terrible precedent. How will the school board say no to the next group that wants some element of a text or curriculum removed?”

Campbell Biology is a respected, widely used and comprehensive guide to biology. It is in line with curriculum standards and removing or modifying it would violate students’ First Amendment rights, the ACLU explained in the letter.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”) recently tried to pressure the board into censoring or eliminating the book because it mentions contraception and abortion.

ADF incorrectly told the board that the book violates a state law, A.R.S. § 15-115, governing sex education programs. The law requires sex ed programs—not science classes—to state a preference for childbirth and adoption over abortion.

The school district’s curriculum team concluded Gilbert teachers’ use of Campbell Biology does not violate state law, as did attorneys for the Arizona Department of Education.

If Gilbert Public Schools “removes or censors the biology textbook because school board members disagree with a particular viewpoint expressed, GPS would violate students’ rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the ACLU’s letter said.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that “a student’s First Amendment rights are infringed when books that have been determined by the school district to have legitimate educational value are removed … because of threats of damages, lawsuits, or other forms of retaliation,” the letter said.

The full letter is available here.

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