The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has asked the North Little Rock School District to halt the teaching of creationism in its schools and to take steps to ensure it does not recur, the organization said Monday.
The ACLU said parents of students in the district had complained about a middle school teacher’s introduction of a three-day lesson on creationism that injected doubt about evolution into teaching about world history and social studies.
The courts recognized in McLean v Arkansas in 1982 — and later in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District — that public-school instruction in creationism or other religious beliefs about the origin of life — whether presented alone or in conjunction with instruction about evolution — violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"A public school teaching religion is a violation of parents’ fundamental rights to decide and control the religious upbringing of their children," Arkansas ACLU Executive Director Rita Sklar said in a release. "It also hinders the scientific education of our students, which we should be doing … to foster and improve."
ACLU spokesman Holly Dickson said the group learned of the course pitting science vs. creationism about a week and a half ago and informed the district.
"It is my understanding that this has ceased," Dickson said Monday. She said the ACLU needed some action from them informing teachers "about what the law is here."
"If the school district takes a position that it is above the law, they are going to leave the parents no choice but to seek an injunction in state or federal court," she said.
North Little Rock School Superintendent Kelly Rodgers did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Jerry Cox, president of the Christian-conservative Family Council, said that in the interest of fairness and tolerance, schools should be open enough to present both points of view.
"As long as you give fair treatment to both sides of the issue, there are court rulings that would indicate you don’t have to censure points of view just because someone considers that religious," Cox said.