Despite empirical scientific evidence that proves things like global warming and evolution are actual facts, a new Florida law just made teachers’ jobs a lot harder by allowing any parent, or resident, to object to how these subjects, for example, are taught in public schools. The new legislation — signed by Gov. Rick Scott and went into effect on July 1 — will now reportedly require schools to hire an “unbiased” or “impartial” hearing officer to handle all complaints made by any Florida resident about instructional materials used in class, even if they don’t have a child enrolled in the school.
According to The Washington Post, complaints can be made about teaching materials like movies, textbooks, and novels, which could then be removed from the school and a teacher’s lesson plans if the “hearing officer deems the challenge justified.”
As for what could constitute for such a move, the bill states that an instructional material could be pulled from the curriculum if it's “pornographic or harmful to minors, is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which it is used; and requiring the school district to discontinue use of a material that is found to contain inappropriate or unsuitable material.”
Those general guidelines have many worried, especially science education advocates, that teaching subjects like evolution and climate change will be much harder, according to The Washington Post. And while the categories don’t specifically target those topics, residents have already made formal complaints about how these subjects have been taught.
“I have witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact of creation rather than a theory,” according to one affidavit. “I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality. Now that it is colder and the country is experiencing repeated Cold Waves, the new term is Climate Change.” (The same complaint also requested the removal of library books about Cuba and wrote that “there is a liberal agenda being taught in our schools.”)
As Salon reported, the science community is greatly concerned that the new law will make it possible for further complaints to shape how children are taught these crucial subjects.
In a blog post responding to the bill, cited by Salon and The Washington Post, Brendan Hought, the communications director for Florida Citizens for Science, wrote:
Each and every one of us has to be on alert. You must keep an eye on your local school board and everyone who brings forth a complaint about textbooks. If you don’t, we truly lose. At this point the fight is at the local level. If you’re not there and willing to stand up for sound science education, then we’re done.
To this day, topics such as climate change, evolution, and vaccines still generate a great deal of skepticism. And even though scientific explanations that have been tested and confirmed by multiple sources exist, children in Florida may not receive a full and adequate lesson on a variety of subjects — and this law could be to blame.