In the sprawling suburban community just south of this blue-collar mill town, biology teachers in the Clover Park school district have been teaching creationism for the last 10 years.

No one really thought much about it at the time, much less questioned it. Talking about creationism along with evolution in the science lab became as routine as dissecting frogs.

No one really thought much about it five years ago when the Clover Park school board made it official and approved guidelines for teaching creationism, drafted by a six-teacher committee.

"I don't think it was ever discussed. I think it just happened," said Stan Johnson, who was president of the Clover Park school board then. "There wasn't a lot of emphasis on it at the time."

No one really thought much about it after that--until last week, when the American Civil Liberties Union told Clover Park to stop or be sued.

The district's superintendent, Dr. Robert Chisholm, ordered his teachers to teach neither creationism nor evolution while the district's attorney considers what to do.

In the meantime, the teachers say they just want the furor to die down.

"Whether we sprang from monkeys or whatever isn't given a lot of time to any extent," said Leland Weaver, a chemistry teacher at Clover Park High School.

"If the students decide they were created, that's one thing. If they decide they evolved, that's another. After that, they're living in the present now."

Silas Nelson, chairman of the science department at Lakes High School, said evolution theory is discussed in science class "for about one day."

The Clover Park school district has 16,000 students. Its two high schools have seven science teachers each. Some, like the one who keeps a Bible on his desk, quietly support creationism theory. A few, like Richard Gamas, a biology teacher at Clover Park High School, say they do not consider creationism a science.

The district guideline, which says evolution and creationism are both equally scientific and equally religious, was written in response to complaints from parents that the district wasn't teaching "both sides."

"It is intolerable in a free society for one of those theories to be labeled 'science' and the other 'religion.' If either is taught, both should be taught," the guideline says.

Gamas said he tries to get around the guideline by teaching neither.

"When we discuss frog dissection, we talk about the functions of the liver and so forth. That's as far as it goes. We don't philosophically get into where they came from," he said.

Johnson, the school board president, has since moved on to the state legislature as a representative.

He sits on the House Education Committee, which last year considered a bill almost identical to the Arkansas creationism statute that was overturned in federal court last week.

The bill here died in committee and Johnson said it probably won't be revived this winter because it's too controversial.

But he defended the right of a local school board to determine what will be taught in its schools.

"Science to me is the study of all aspects of life and creation and whatever," he said.

"I think a person is intellectually dishonest if they don't look at every aspect of information."

Kathleen Taylor, head of the local ACLU, said she views a lawsuit as a "last resort," but will go to court if necessary to stop Clover Park from teaching creationism in school.

"The district is teaching a religious belief in the guise of science. Religion cannot be taught in public schools," she said.

But if the district changes its guideline to suit the ACLU, it may find itself tangling with the Moral Majority.

"The district has violated the law for suspending the program. We feel they've violated the civil rights of the students," said Michael Farris, head of the state's Moral Majority chapter.

He added he finds it "ironic" that the ACLU is battling "for censorship and the Moral Majority against it."