Two pages in an AP Biology booked have sparked a heated debate in Gilbert, Arizona. The suburb’s school board has voted to redact pages 544 and 545 from “Campell Biology :Concepts and Connections” because they discuss mifepristone, a drug that can be used to prevent or halt pregnancy.
The 2 pages are in violation of a law that was passed two years ago in Arizona stating that chools are required to teach preference to abstinence and adoption over abortion. Despite the fact that the Arizona Education Department examined the book and found it was in compliance with the state law, the school board voted 3 to 2 that the pages needed to be removed somehow, reports Rick Rojas for The New York Times.
“It comes down to, it’s the law, and we need to be in compliance with the law,” said Julie Smith, a member of the Gilbert Public Schools governing board and also a parent who raised concerns about the book. “If people don’t like the law, they need to take it up with their state legislator. I don’t write the law. It’s my job to uphold it.”
A state Department of Education official, Chris Kotterman believes the book is not in violation of the law:
“In general, the mere mention of a means of medically inducing abortion does not automatically signal a lack of preference for childbirth and adoption … the responsibility lies with the teacher to provide context for the student,” said Kotterman, a deputy associate superintendent.
However, an attorney for Alliance for Defending Freedom points out that the law does not solely apply to sex education classes and it must to be upheld whenever abortion is mentioned, reports CBS News.
There are several concerns from parents and Gilbert’s superintendent Christina Kishimoto, from students missing out on information that could potentially be on AP tests to copyright infringement — and even worries that teachers will take the move as a vote of no confidence.
Teachers, principals and school administrators are allowed to remove materials from the curriculum without being found guilty of censorship if the action is done under the pretense of professional guidelines. However, there is an important distinction between the two: censorship seeks to remove, eliminate, or bar specific materials and methods and professional guidelines provide criteria for selection of methods and materials, writes Stephanie Castillo for Medical Daily.
School board members did not give specific instructions on how to change the book, which will be decided in a future meeting, reports Cathryn Creno for AZ Central.
There is the possibility that the board could reverse their decision before the end of the school year. The election this year could potentially change the composition of the board and produce a more moderate majority.
The final decision won’t be carried out until this summer to limit disruptions for the students.