Orleans Parish School Board votes to ban creationism, expand bullying policy

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The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) voted in favor of two policy amendments proposed by outgoing president Thomas Robichaux at last night's December meeting at McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School.

Robichaux's updates included adding "zero tolerance," among other discipline actions, to its "bullying, intimidation, harassment and hazing" policy," and ensuring creationism, intelligent design and "revisionist history" are left out of textbooks. Read more about the policy changes in Gambit.

The textbook selection update says "No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."

It also applies to teachers: "No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."

Zack Kopplin, who campaigned to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (which City Council called to repeal in May 2011), was the only speaker on the textbook policy: "Creationism certainly is not science," he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they "won't find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District."

OPSB's anti-bullying policy mirrors language Robichaux supported in this year's Louisiana Legislature battle to update statewide bullying policies to include targeted characteristics, which failed to pass. (In its place, Gov. Bobby Jindal supported and signed the more broad Tesa Middlebook Anti-Bullying Act.)

With OPSB, bullying is defined as "any intimidating, threatening, or abusive gesture or written, verbal, electronic transmission or communication or physical act by a student directed at another student occurring on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event that a reasonable person under the circumstances would perceive as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories."

The policy includes the following: "Any teacher, administrator, or other school personnel who personally observes, or who has or receives notice that a student has or may have been the victim of bullying, intimidation, threatening behavior, harassment, or hazing at school or any school activity shall be required to immediately take such action as necessary and appropriate to stop the incident in question, if it is ongoing, and report the alleged acts to an appropriate school district official."

Faculty who fail to report or stop bullying also will be subject to disciplinary action.

The measures passed with no objection from the board members.

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