Education

Feb 24, 2014 5:37 PM by AP

Letter raises question of creationism in class

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A letter to a newspaper has prompted the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to ask the Caddo Parish School Board to investigate whether any of its teachers are illegally teaching creationism.

The letter that appeared on the editorial page of The Times of Shreveport was from a woman who identified herself as a fifth-grade teacher. She said she presents both evolution and creationism and, when asked, tells her students her beliefs.

ACLU Louisiana director Marjorie Esman responded with an open letter released Monday saying the woman appears to be illegally promoting her personal religious beliefs in a public classroom.

School officials did not return a Monday morning call seeking confirmation that the author of the newspaper letter was a Caddo public school teacher.

"My job is to present both, tell what I personally believe, only because they ask, and they always, always ask, and let them decide, but I will never ever teach what goes against so many of these children's beliefs, morals and what their parents have worked so hard to instill in their hearts," the teacher wrote in the Feb. 6 letter.

Esman's response notes a 1987 Supreme Court opinion striking down a Louisiana law that required schools that teach evolution to give equal time to creationism. The law was struck down as an effort by government to promote religion.

The teacher goes beyond her First Amendment right to freedom of expression if she does what she describes in her letter, Esman said.

"While teachers and school officials enjoy the full range of religious-liberty rights in their personal capacities, they are not entitled to use their government positions to promote and impose their personal religious beliefs on students," Esman wrote.

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