Virginia science bill sent to courts subcommittee

A bill that would encourage Virginia students to explore controversial scientific topics was referred Thursday to a House committee for Courts and Justice, where any constitutional concerns can be analyzed.

The bill, which was sponsored by Del. Richard P. Bell (R-Staunton), has met opposition from science teachers and other advocates for the separation of church and state who say it would invite challenges to mainstream scientific theories, including evolution and climate change.

More news about education

Loudoun considers ending Thomas Jefferson bus service

The county School Board may cut funding to transport students to the magnet high school in Fairfax County.

E-mail from Woodson High School to parents

E-mail from Woodson High School to parents

Following a series of suicides, the Woodson community is working to prevent more loss.

Parents seek action at Woodson High after suicides

Parents seek action at Woodson High after suicides

The Fairfax County school’s parents want to prevent more suicides after six student deaths in three years.

Read more

About 10 people spoke in opposition to the bill at the House subcommittee for Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday afternoon, said Seth Heald, vice chair of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter and a graduate student studying energy policy and climate who attended the meeting.

It was a “dramatic” scene, he said, with some opponents invoking the 1925 Scopes trial, in which a public school teacher was accused of breaking the law by teaching about evolution.

Historic efforts to ban the instruction of evolution in public schools or teach biblical creationism have been struck down by the Supreme Court.

The language of the Virginia bill is similar to bills passed in Tennessee and Louisiana. It’s very broad and states its provisions are not intended to promote or discriminate against any religion. The Virginia bill also does not single out scientific “controversies.”

“We have not had a court case on these statutes,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which has tracked major cases about creationism and evolution, and opposes the bill.

“It’s not clear they would not survive constitutional scrutiny,” he said.

Read what others are saying

    Man killed in Loudoun crash