Public schools in Wake County in North Carolina must only teach evolution and no other theory on how life began, not even in an extra credit project, a science teacher has been told.
Authorities at Wakefield Middle School in North Raleigh told an eighth-grade science teacher, Adam Dembrow, to stop giving students an extra-credit opportunity to do a poster and paper either on creationism or on "any evidence on the theory of evolution, which can be used to support the theory of evolution," News & Observer reported Friday.
Dembrow was told the state curriculum does not include creationism and therefore giving his students the option of doing an extra-credit project on evolution or creationism was inappropriate.
"I think students should be allowed to learn about evolution but also to learn about the weaknesses of it," Georgia Purdom, a research scientist associated with the Answers in Genesis website, was quoted as saying. Cincinnati-based Answers in Genesis is one of the three websites Dembrow suggested students could refer to.
The school's attorney disagrees. "The courts have been pretty clear that public schools can't teach about creationism in science classes," attorney Ann Majestic was quoted as saying. "We have a standard course of study. There's not a lot of freelancing that's permissible."
The school says it acted on a parental complaint but has not taken any disciplinary action. "We follow the standard curriculum, which focuses on evolution," Wakefield Middle Principal Jimmy Sposato said in a statement. "In this case, I talked with the teacher and reminded him to only give assignments aligned with the core curriculum moving forward."
Former N.C. Rep. Russell Capps, a Republican, supported Dembrow. "Evolution is certainly something that students can be taught," he was quoted as saying. "But it's not the only theory. Students should also have the right to learn about creationism. Where's their academic freedom?" asked Capps, who is a candidate for a state House seat this year and who introduced a bill calling for evolution to be taught as a theory and not as fact.
Some states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, have laws permitting teachers to discuss criticism of the theory of biological evolution.