Petitions targeting teachers rejected

School District 51 Board of Education members adopted a resolution Tuesday night dismissing two petitions given to the board at a May 25 meeting.

The petitions asked teachers not to teach man-made climate change and to abstain from partisanship in the classroom. The resolution states existing school board policy already says teachers should handle controversial issues by gathering facts that represent various viewpoints and show respect for all students’ opinions, among other steps.

Additional board policy suggests that parents or students who have an issue with a teacher’s methods should handle the issue at the school level before approaching the board.

The resolution also says the district plans during the next two years to implement new model content standards that were adopted by the state in 2009, and that those standards include enabling students to “critically evaluate scientific claims in popular media and by peers regarding climate and climate change, and determine if the evidence presented is appropriate and sufficient to support the claims.”

Board President Harry Butler defended teachers after the resolution’s adoption. Butler passed when asked to vote on the resolution, which received a yes vote from the board’s other four members.

“Our teachers allow free expression in the classroom,” he said. “They are doing their jobs, and I appreciate what they’re doing.”

Local scientist Rich Alward, who spoke against the petitions when they were presented to the board, said Mesa County and Colorado will benefit from the board’s decision.

“I want to thank you for standing up for process and for rigorous science standards,” he told the board.

Petition author Rose Pugliese said she would advise parents and students who encouraged her to write the petitions to follow board policy and report on their own any incidents where they feel uncomfortable with classroom climate-change discussions.

“If they want complaints, we’ll give them complaints. I think they’ve opened up a Pandora’s box,” Pugliese said.

The school board also adopted the 2010-11 budget Tuesday and approved a $124,442 contract with PNCI to remodel Fruita Monument High School over the summer. The project will be paid for with leftover bond money, according to Superintendent Steve Schultz.


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