One Virginia legislator wants to make sure that teachers will not be punished if they critique controversial scientific concepts like evolution or climate change in front of students.
Virginia House of Delegates Rep. Richard “Dickie” Bell (R) recently proposed a piece of legislation that would make teachers immune to retribution if they discuss “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” in order to “create an environment in public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions.”
Bell, who is a former teacher himself, told Virginia outlet the Hampton Roads Daily Press that the bill is intended to protect teachers if students ask about controversial ideas, like creationism. However, he noted that the teacher could not discuss theories like creationism unsolicited, as "introducing them into instructional discussion would not seem appropriate."
Bell further explained to local outlet WHSV-TV that he believes the bill would allow teachers to foster productive conversation about science.
"The teacher needs to be more than a policeman to stop conversation, to stop dialogue because maybe it went into an area where somebody doesn't share the belief system. It's okay,” Bell told the outlet. “We're not asking everyone to believe the same thing, we're asking for teachers to be protected when they allow discussions about different opinions to take place.”
Louisiana and Tennessee have similar academic freedom bills. The Louisiana bill, which was passed in 2008, and the Tennessee bill, which was passed in 2012, both allow teachers to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of scientific ideas, like evolution, in class.
(Hat Tip, Think Progress.)