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FW: Origin of board decision probed: Dover school officials were asked about a creationism seminar, board discussions.

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@Ohio.edu] Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2005 5:05 PM To: Science Education Subject: Origin of board decision
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
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      From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@...]
      Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2005 5:05 PM
      To: Science Education
      Subject: Origin of board decision probed: Dover school officials were
      asked about a creationism seminar, board discussions.

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      >From the York Daily Record at YDR.com

      Origin of board decision probed
      Dover school officials were asked about a creationism seminar, board
      discussions.
      By MICHELLE STARR
      Daily Record/Sunday News
      Thursday, November 3, 2005

      HARRISBURG - Not long into his cross-examination Wednesday, Dover
      schools
      Asst. Supt. Michael Baksa talked about a seminar he had attended about
      creationism in public schools.

      The typically calm and confident administrator started his testimony
      with shaky
      hands and a weak voice as he explained to plaintiffs' attorney Eric
      Rothschild
      that Supt. Richard Nilsen sent him to the Messiah College seminar on
      March 26,
      2003.

      Baksa had returned to the stand in a federal civil suit over Dover Area
      School
      District's decision to include a mention of intelligent design in
      ninth-grade
      biology class. It was Baksa's third appearance on the stand after being
      bumped
      by out-of-town witnesses for the defense.

      Knowledge of the seminar wasn't new. But the plaintiffs' attorneys used
      it and
      other testimony from Baksa and school board President Sheila Harkins,
      who also
      testified Wednesday, to try to tie together events leading up to the
      science
      curriculum change and show that religion played a role in the board's
      decision.

      A policy that had a religious purpose would violate the First
      Amendment's
      establishment clause.

      Baksa testified that hours after attending the conference, he went to a
      Dover
      board retreat. According to previous testimony, board member Alan
      Bonsell said
      at the retreat that creationism should balance the teaching of
      evolution.
      Earlier in the trial, board members, former board members and Nilsen
      testified
      about notes made during board retreats in 2002 and 2003 at which Bonsell
      mentioned creationism and prayer in school.

      After the retreat, Baksa said, he told Bertha Spahr, head of the science
      department, that Bonsell wanted to give another theory equal time to
      evolution
      in science class.

      Baksa received a memo dated April 1, 2003, from then-Principal Trudy
      Peterman
      that said a board member wanted to give creationism equal time with
      evolution.

      "My first reaction is, 'She got it wrong,'" Baksa said, referring to
      Peterman's
      use of the term creationism. But he didn't approach either Spahr or
      Peterman to
      correct the information, he said.

      A little more than a year after Peterman's memo, controversy erupted
      during
      June 2004 board meetings when board members, and one board member's
      wife, made
      religious comments while talking about buying new biology books.

      During Wednesday's questioning, Baksa corroborated some news coverage by
      saying
      he heard former board member Bill Buckingham talk about creationism,
      saying
      that "liberals in black robes" were taking away Christians' rights and
      that the
      ninth-grade biology book was "laced with Darwinism."

      Baksa said Buckingham said something about a man dying on the cross
      2,000 years
      ago but didn't remember if the comment was made in 2003 during talks
      about
      "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or in 2004 during discussion on
      the
      curriculum change.

      He also said Buckingham made a comment about the country not being
      founded on
      Muslim beliefs but said he didn't know when that was said.

      Earlier Wednesday, Harkins testified she didn't remember Bonsell talking
      about
      creationism or prayer during retreats. She said she heard Buckingham
      mention
      liberal judges but didn't know whether his mention of a man dying 2,000
      years
      ago on the cross came at a 2004 board meeting or in earlier discussions
      about
      the pledge.

      She also said people in the audience were talking about creationism at
      the June
      meetings, while then-board member Jeff Brown talked about intelligent
      design.

      "My recollection is it seems to me I was thinking Jeff was the first one
      to
      bring up mentioning intelligent design in the conversation," she said.
      "I was
      thinking Alan, Noel (Wenrich) and Bill got in on the conversation."

      Baksa and Harkins both testified that, at those June meetings, they
      didn't know
      what intelligent design meant.

      In August 2004, before the October vote on the intelligent design
      statement,
      Baksa and others received e-mail from Stock and Leader lawyer Steve
      Russell.
      The district had asked him for advice about the pro-intelligent design
      textbook
      "Of Pandas and People."

      "Today I talked to Richard Thompson. . . . they refer to the creationism
      issue
      as 'intelligent design,'" Russell wrote, referring to Dover's lawyer
      from the
      Thomas More Law Center in Michigan.

      After court, Thompson maintained that creationism and intelligent design
      were
      separate.

      Russell's concern, according to the e-mail, was about various talk for
      putting
      religion back into the schools.

      Baksa said in court Wednesday that he considered Russell's words as
      advising
      caution in using "Pandas."

      In the summer of 2004, the board decided not to spend taxpayer money on
      "Pandas" as a companion text. Baksa testified that Nilsen asked him to
      research
      how much 50 copies of "Pandas" would cost so the board could then give
      the
      information to donors.

      Later that year, Alan Bonsell's father, Donald, and members of former
      board
      member Buckingham's church anonymously gave 60 copies of the book to the
      district.

      Outside court, Thompson said the events simply coincided.

      "I don't think they're connected," he said. "I think it's just
      happenstance. At
      that point, I don't think they were connected. The only reason that's
      brought
      up is because of the case that exists today."

      The plaintiffs' attorneys declined to comment Wednesday.

      Reach Michelle Starr at 771-2045 or mstarr@....

      SHARE YOUR OPINION

      Let others know your thoughts on the intelligent design debate and trial
      online
      at http://www.ydr.com/exchange.

      Comment on columns and letters to the editor about the trial online at
      http://www.yorkblog.com Click on "Argento's Front Stoop," "Pardon My
      Rant" and
      "Today's Mailbag" to read and comment.

      top
      CREATIONIST SPEAKS

      A man who testified in support of creation science in the 1981 case of
      McLean
      vs. Arkansas capitalized on the Dover trial Wednesday to promote his new
      book
      touting the biblical account of life's origins.

      Robert V. Gentry, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol Rotunda,
      repeatedly plugged "Creation's Tiny Mystery."

      Gentry, a Tennessee resident, says both sides in the Dover case are
      wrong.

      In the McLean case, an Arkansas federal district court rejected Arkansas
      Board
      of Education's balanced treatment act for the teaching of creation
      science
      along with evolutionary theory.




      Please see the Ohio Citizens for Science's web page at:


      http://OhioScience.org



      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---
      Steven A. Edinger, Physiology Lab Instructor

      064 Irvine Hall
      Department of Biological Sciences
      steven.edinger.1@...
      Ohio University Office: (740) 593-9484
      Athens, Ohio 45701-2979 Fax: (740) 593-0300
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---

      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************




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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************
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