Originally created 03/01/01

School board dismisses creationism claim



AIKEN - An Aiken parent moved closer Tuesday to letting the courts decide whether his daughter should be taught that she evolved from monkeys, that a higher hand made her, or both theories of how life began.

Glenn Wilson says God is responsible for creation. And for two years, he has tried to get teachers to give his God - or at least a "higher power" - some credit when they talk about how humans got here. His theory is that schools should teach creationism along with evolution or teach nothing at all about the origins of humans.

When school board members recently decided not to make creationism part of Aiken County's science curriculum, Mr. Wilson said he knew his battle would move from the classroom to the courthouse.

On Tuesday night, after a closed-door session that also included discussion of teacher contracts and expulsions, the board voted to dismiss Mr. Wilson's claim that his daughter Halita "has been harmed by your policy of teaching evolution only."

The official announcement will be documented in a letter to Mr. Wilson and his attorney. But a courtesy copy signed by school board Chairman John Bradley says, "For reasons set forth in this letter the board declines to grant specific requests made on behalf of Halita ... and would therefore dismiss the petition."

In the petition, Mr. Wilson says his oldest daughter has been harmed "by the damage done to her confidence in elected officials to take the right action, though unpopular and opposed."

The hours he spends "showing people why evolution is not correct ... takes time each year away from my daughter," according to legal documents. She is "taught not to lie at home, yet sees lies in the textbooks. She is taught a person gets ahead by fabricating evidence, aggressively pushing a falsehood or simply outright lying."

Mr. Wilson won't say publicly whether he will sue the school board but his hints are getting stronger.

"I would anticipate hearing more about this," he said Wednesday. "I wouldn't say this is over."

School officials have heard those hints, too.

"The board has given every possible consideration to all of Mr. Wilson's claims," attorney Bill Burkhalter said. "We are confident that the district has done the right thing and has followed the legal precedents that are extensive."

He said at a January meeting that teaching both evolution and creationism would make a mockery of the Constitution that separates church and state. Teaching neither "clearly fails to follow the minimum requirements and testing standards" laid out by state law.

In South Carolina, only evolution is taught, and questions on the theory are on standardized tests. State-approved science standards don't mention creationism, but teachers are free to tell pupils that many people believe in it.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.