Arizona School Board Decides Against Redacting Honors Biology Textbook Page Mentioning Birth Control December 17, 2014

Arizona School Board Decides Against Redacting Honors Biology Textbook Page Mentioning Birth Control

Last month, the board members of the Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona voted 3-2 in favor of removing a page from an honors biology textbook because it contained information about birth control and abortion.

Mind you, it also said “Complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control,” but the textbook upset conservatives because it suggested there were non-abstinence options when it came to birth control.

After the district became the subject of mockery — Rachel Maddow‘s team even bought the domain ArizonaHonorsBiology.com so that everyone could read the controversial page from the textbook — Superintendent Christina Kishimoto urged the board to reconsider their decision.

It worked. Yesterday, the board agreed not to change the books:

Although it did not take a formal vote, the Gilbert Public Schools governing board on Tuesday decided school staff does not need to edit biology books that mention abortion after all.

I wish I could say this was all because they realized they made a mistake… but Kishimoto persuaded them with not-so-academic reasons:

Kishimoto said because the textbooks are copyrighted, editing the books could create legal issues. In addition, a redaction effort would involve thousands of books and a special process that could involve hiring teachers to work over the summer.

A better solution, Kishimoto said, would be to have teachers provide supplemental information to students about childbirth and adoption and not change the books. GPS staff could insert additional material into books if the board desires.

That’s kind of like saying, “We would totally remove this page if we could… but it’d be a lot of work. So let’s not.”

Not exactly the sort of strong leadership you want in a superintendent.

But maybe it was just strategic. Kishimoto alluded to the board putting politics above students’ needs in a letter to them:

“Additionally, I want to share with you that in my conversations with teachers there is significant teacher concern that there is a breakdown of trust between the board and teachers … This perception of mistrust can erode the positive work environment that is the cornerstone of my leadership. Therefore, my request to the Board is to consider turning this matter back to me as the Superintendent to handle as an administrative matter, i.e. curriculum implementation.”

It’s the sort of tone you expect from a patient coach to a student who has no business being on the team: I know you’re working really hard, but I’m the coach here and you need to trust my decision-making.

The board ultimately made the right decision. If only they had the right reasons for doing it. In any case, the students learned a valuable lesson: Go vote. That’s the only way to get these kinds of conservatives off the school board so that they can’t do any further damage.

(Thanks to Avery for the link)

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