Pennsylvania evolution ruling makes impact in Ohio first

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio appears to be the first state to change its curriculum in response to a federal court ruling in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

But the ruling did not apply specifically to Ohio's education standards, and the precautionary move hasn't swayed other states with similar language in state curricula or legislation.

In December, a federal judge barred the school system in Dover, Pa., from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes because it would violate the separation of church and state. The judge called intelligent design religion masquerading as science.

Ohio board members mentioned the possibility of lawsuits over its standard that singled out evolution for "critical analysis," directing students to find arguments both for and against the theory.

Kansas has adopted similar language to encourage students to explore arguments against evolution, but the standards have not yet been tied to any lesson plans or statewide testing, education department spokesman David Awbrey said.

Board members have said they will not revisit the standard this year because the board composition might change, Awbrey said. Four of the six conservatives who supported it are among five seeking re-election, and they face challengers in both the Republican primary and general election.

South Carolina's education board is considering adding similar language to its standards but is stuck at an impasse, which would keep in place the current standard requiring evolution only to be taught. Board chairman Joe Isaac said he's sure Ohio's vote will be part of the discussion, but isn't sure if it will sway members.

About a half dozen states have pending legislation related to allowing or requiring teachers to discuss challenges to mainstream scientific theory.

Mississippi Sen. Charles Edwin Ross said he feels no need to change his bill on science education because it doesn't mandate teaching any one point of view. Instead the bill, which passed the Senate, clarifies that teachers are allowed to discuss or answer questions about intelligent design or other challenges to evolution.

"My sense is the state board in Ohio may have overreacted to a court decision regarding intelligent design," said Michigan Rep. John Moolenaar, whose bill would require students to analyze weaknesses in scientific theories including evolution and global warning.

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