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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/08/28

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A partial settlement in a legal case involving a teacher accused of
inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, including teaching
creationism. The HHMI Bulletin discusses ways for teachers to
introduce evolution in a non-threatening way. And there are now over
1100 signatories to NCSE's Project Steve.


A partial settlement was reportedly reached in Doe v. Mount Vernon
Board of Education et al., the case in which a Mount Vernon, Ohio,
teacher, was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the
classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments
and Bible verses, branding crosses into the arms of his students with
a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount
Vernon News (August 27, 2009) reported that "the board’s insurance
company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees,
$5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each
to two other individuals." The board, superintendent, and principal of
the middle school admit no liability in the agreement, which will have
to be approved by a court.

Not covered by the settlement agreement is the teacher himself, John
Freshwater. Shortly after the filing of the case, the board voted to
initiate proceedings to terminate Freshwater's employment in the
district. Freshwater appealed the decision, and administrative
hearings have been proceeding intermittently since October 2008.
Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe are available on
The Panda’s Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater"). Complicating the
legal situation, Freshwater filed a counterclaim in Doe v. Mount
Vernon in 2008 and his own lawsuit, Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City
School District Board of Education et al., against the board and a
number of district administrators in 2009, alleging religious
discrimination, defamation, conspiracy, and breach of contract.

According to the Mount Vernon News, the school board also agreed to
"[p]rohibit staff from discussing the John Freshwater case with or in
the presence of students during the school day and at school
activities; [p]rovide training to board members and administrators
concerning religion and the school, and provide training to teachers
on the same topic ... [and] [m]ake a public statement at the
conclusion of the Freshwater administrative hearing." A statement
released by the board explained, "The resolution of the lawsuit
against the board, superintendent and middle school principal has no
impact or bearing on the pending administrative hearing with respect
to the middle school teacher’s employment. Due to pending litigation,
the board will not be commenting further."

For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of documents from Doe v. Mount Vernon, visit: 

For Richard B. Hoppe's reports on the hearings, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of documents from Freshwater v. Mount Vernon, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: 


How can teachers introduce evolution in a non-threatening way? Nancy
Volker's article "The E World," published in the August 2009 issue of
the HHMI Bulletin, discusses a number of strategies for introducing
evolution gradually and without fanfare. "It's like adding shredded
zucchini to a homemade chocolate cake," she explains. "No one knows
it's there, and once it's pointed out, people realize it's not at all
what they thought."

Among the resources on teaching evolution suggested in the article are
NCSE's website, the University of California Museum of Paleontology's
Understanding Evolution website, and the National Academy of Sciences
and the Institute of Medicine's booklet Science, Evolution, and
Creationism. The web version of the article also includes audio
interviews with Kelly Smith and Margaret Ptacek, both of Clemson

For the article in the HHMI Bulletin, visit: 

For the cited resources, visit: 


With the addition of Stephen D. Kinrade on August 25, 2009, NCSE's
Project Steve attained its 1100th signatory. A tongue-in-cheek parody
of the long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of
"scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from
Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its
signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve. (Cognates are
also accepted, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even
Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent.) About 1% of the United States
population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents
about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the
late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender
of evolution education.)

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is
serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying
principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is
overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a
common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the
patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific
doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major
mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and
pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including
but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the
science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Among the 1101 current signatories to Project Steve are 100% of
eligible Nobel laureates (Steven Weinberg and Steven Chu), 100% of
eligible members of President Obama's Cabinet (Steven Chu, the
Secretary of Energy), at least ten members of the National Academy of
Sciences, the authors of widely used textbooks such as Molecular
Biology of the Gene, Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, and
Introduction to Organic Geochemistry, and the authors of popular
science books such as A Brief History of Time, Why We Age, and
Darwin's Ghost. When last surveyed in February 2006, 54% of the
signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in
related fields in the life sciences.

For information about Project Steve, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! 

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools 

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