Minnesota appeals panel rebuffs teacher's bid to challenge evolution in classroom
By The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. School districts can require teachers to teach evolution even if they don't personally accept the theory, a Minnesota Court of Appeals panel ruled yesterday.
The decision upholds a lower court ruling backing Faribault School District's removal of Rod LeVake, a devout Christian, as a high-school biology teacher.
LeVake has described his fight as about "whether a Christian can teach biology, and whether Darwin can be criticized."
The three-judge panel concluded that the district could require LeVake to teach evolution as outlined in the district's curriculum without violating his constitutional rights.
"The crux of this decision is that a school district controls the teachings of its curriculum," said the district's lawyer, Kay Nord Hunt, in a statement.
The panel's unanimous decision was written by Judge Daniel Foley.
The judges ruled that the school's decision did not violate LeVake's constitutional rights to free speech or impede on his freedom to practice his religion.
"LeVake's proposal of how he wanted to teach evolution conflicted with respondents' curriculum goals, which dictated that evolution should be taught as the accepted theory for how life has changed over time," Foley wrote.
LeVake was removed as a biology teacher and reassigned in 1998.
He then sued the district, arguing that he had no conflict with teaching evolution and only wanted students to be aware that not all scientists accept the theory. He asked for his old job back and more than $50,000 in compensatory damages.
Last year, a Rice County District judge dismissed the suit, saying LeVake neglected his responsibilities by rushing through evolution studies. He also ruled that the district had the right to limit speech in the classroom to the teaching of the designated curriculum.
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