A school board in Arizona has voted to remove a section in a high school biology book because it includes a factual discussion about varying methods of birth control, including the “morning after” pill that can end a pregnancy. What does “remove” mean? The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board left it to the district’s high schools to decide how to do it, but the acting board president said that ripping out the page was the “cheapest, least disruptive” method.
The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted 3-2 last week to “redact” the page from “Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections,” because it discusses in a brief section an FDA-approved pill called Mifepristone, or RU486, which can terminate a pregnancy before seven weeks. According to KTVK-TV, a conservative Christian law organization Freedom had complained to GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto over the summer.
The governing board said schools could decide how to remove the offending material. Methods can include marking it out, pasting something over it, or, as the board’s acting president, Daryl Colvin, was quoted as saying in The Arizona Republic: “The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page. It’s only a page.” KTVK-TV quoted one of the two governing board members who voted against the action, Jill Humphreys, as making the fine point that “if we hand a biology book to ninth-grade students with a page missing, I think there’s going to be some questions about why that page is removed.”
The governing board said it was taking the action to bring the book into alignment with a state law passed two years that requires public schools to ensure that all materials and in-school discussions give “preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.” KTVK-TV said the governing board’s own legal counsel, as well as a member of the state Board of Education had already determined that this particular textbook did not — repeat not — violate the law, but the board majority didn’t agree with them.
The board’s action sparked a lot of discussion, including by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who created a webpage that shows the redacted material and who sent a message to Gilbert’s honor biology schools, saying:
Dear honors biology students of Gilbert, Arizona, I now address your directly. You may soon find yourself holding a biology textbook with a hole where some true facts used to be. Don’t despair. We here at ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ have preserved the part of your biology textbook that the crusading religious group and the Republican State Senators and the conservative majority on your school board no longer wants to allow you to see. We’re going to keep it posted for you in perpetuity at arizonahonorsbiology.com. Which we bought today so that we could post the page that they’re cutting out of your textbook. You can get it there.