Louisiana Academic Freedom Challenge Deferred
by Christine Dao *
A Louisiana state senate bill was introduced in April of this year in an effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which went into law in 2008 to protect teachers if they introduce material on controversial topics—such as evolution—in the classroom.1 At the time, Louisiana was the only state offering this measure of academic freedom to teachers who wished to present more than one side of the origins debate.
The Louisiana Senate Education Committee met on May 26 to consider the bill. At the committee hearing, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate, Zack Kopplin, testified in support of repealing the Education Act. A local television station reported that the graduate—who spearheaded the effort to legally challenge the academic freedom law—has used social media to garner more support from students.2
Another recent graduate, Jennifer Beard from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, petitioned for support to uphold the law. Beard was unable to attend the committee hearing, but closely followed the activity regarding the LSEA and the bill that sought to repeal it, SB 70. She said in a recent email:
It is my hope that more legislation similar to the Louisiana Science Education Act will be passed in other states, extending to other students the liberty to study leading scientific theories regarding origins, human cloning, etc. This will ensure a student's success in future endeavors within business and scientific fields of study as it broadens their understanding of all the facts and theories within the wide-ranging community of academia and science.
Despite pressure from some in the scientific and educational organizations, five senators voted against the bill, while one legislator was in favor of it. Two did not vote. Still, the bill was deferred in a last-minute motion.
While the bill can technically be scheduled again, it is unlikely, since it has already had a fair hearing and less than a month is left in the Regular Session. For the time being at least, Louisiana teachers remain free to explore all sides of controversial issues with their students in order to see where the evidence leads.
- Dao, C. Louisiana the Only State to Promote Academic Freedom (So Far). ICR News. Posted on icr.org July 23, 2008, accessed May 27, 2011.
- Crockett, J. Bill to repeal La Science Education Act deferred. NBC33 News. Posted in nbc33tv.com May 26, 2011, accessed May 27, 2011.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on June 7, 2011.