SD Bill Wants Freedom for Teachers to Teach Intelligent Design

(SOUTH DAKOTA) A South Dakota lawmaker wants public school teachers to be free to teach intelligent design in their classrooms even though courts have ruled intelligent design is inherently religious - and therefore unconstitutional in school.

Now the bill has science educators warning that taxpayers could be on the hook for expensive lawsuits if it becomes law.

Senator Jeff Monroe introduced the one sentence bill this year. He insists he's just trying to protect teachers.

So - you read the bill and make up your own mind.

South Dakota Senator Jeff Monroe says his bill doesn't have a religious agenda.
It's just one sentence long: "No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics."

"I don't even think it's a bill that's going to change anything that's done in any schooling where just in the cases where teachers are being told or where there's been pressure applied, don't talk about that when there actually may be a curious child that just wants to know what's being talked about out in the public," said South Dakota Senator Jeff Monroe.

Monroe says the bill doesn't force districts to teach intelligent design, it just protects teachers if a student has questions about creationism. But the bill's language of "providing instruction" has the Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education, Glenn Branch, concerned.

"A federal court has already established in 2005 that teaching intelligent design creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional. It's in effect encouraging teachers to teach intelligent design creationism confident to the knowledge that there's a law telling their superiors that they can't interfere with that," said Branch.

He's talking about "Kitzmiller versus Dover" - a landmark case that found teaching intelligent design violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Branch says allowing teachers the opportunity to talk about it without punishment could lead to lawsuits and ultimately hefty bills for tax payers.

"In the case that provoked the decision in 2005, a local school district was left paying a million dollars and it could have been more," said Branch.

Monroe says his bill doesn't run that risk.

"That case was based on the fact that it forced the teachers to introduce it. That's different from this," he said.

But the federal judge in the Dover case was very clear, writing, "...we have addressed the question of whether intelligent design is science. We have concluded that it is *not*, and moreover that intelligent design cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

One of the bill's co-sponsors is Senator Dan Lederman from Dakota Dunes. He told us that he doesn't necessarily support the bill but he sponsored it because he wants the issue discussed.
We asked him to discuss the bill with us and he declined.

We spoke with the Al Leber, the superintendent of Dakota Valley schools and he said Dan Lederman has not contacted him to discuss the bill, or get any input. He also said other elected officials, including Senator Monroe have not reached out. He also said, "We don't plan on changing the way we teach right now and will be following the law of the land."