2015 Montana Legislature
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HOUSE BILL NO. 321
INTRODUCED BY C. FISCUS
A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT ENCOURAGING THE BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION TO EMPHASIZE CRITICAL THINKING IN INSTRUCTION RELATED TO CONTROVERSIAL SCIENTIFIC THEORIES ON THE ORIGIN OF LIFE; CLARIFYING THE DUTY OF THE BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION TO INCLUDE THE BASIC INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM IN THE BOARD'S STANDARDS OF ACCREDITATION; ENCOURAGING TEACHERS TO FOSTER CRITICAL THINKING; PROTECTING TEACHERS WHO PRESENT ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINTS REGARDING CONTROVERSIAL SCIENTIFIC THEORIES; AMENDING SECTIONS 20-2-121 AND 20-7-111, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE."
WHEREAS, academic freedom would provide the opportunity to educate, communicate, and discuss recent discoveries and various claims on the origins of life in our universe; and
WHEREAS, since Darwin's theory of evolution, fossil discoveries, DNA evidence, random mutation, natural selection, and alternative theories have added additional new information to the discussion on the origins of life; and
WHEREAS, the scientific community is not at all in agreement that current theories, opinions, and beliefs have resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe; and
WHEREAS, all theories and viewpoints must be allowed if true critical thinking is to be encouraged.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
NEW SECTION. Section 1. Legislative findings -- instruction to encourage critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories. (1) The legislature finds that:
(a) an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and encourage students to develop critical thinking skills necessary for finding answers and becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens about all issues related to the origin of life as we know it today;
(b) truth in education about claims over scientific discoveries, including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries, can cause controversy; and
(c) some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on these subjects.
(2) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators are encouraged to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.
(3) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators are encouraged to assist teachers in finding effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers must be permitted to help students understand, analyze, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(4) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators may not prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(5) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and may not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
(6) By no later than the start of the 2015-2016 school year, the superintendent of public instruction shall notify all school districts of the provisions of this section. Each district shall notify all employees within the school district of the provisions of this section.
Section 2. Section 20-2-121, MCA, is amended to read:
"20-2-121. Board of public education -- powers and duties. The board of public education shall:
(1) effect an orderly and uniform system for teacher certification and specialist certification and for the issuance of an emergency authorization of employment by adopting the policies prescribed by 20-4-102 and 20-4-111;
(2) consider the suspension or revocation of teacher or specialist certificates and appeals from the denial of teacher or specialist certification in accordance with the provisions of 20-4-110;
(3) administer and order the distribution of BASE aid in accordance with the provisions of 20-9-344;
(4) adopt and enforce policies to provide uniform standards and regulations for the design, construction, and operation of school buses in accordance with the provisions of 20-10-111;
(5) adopt policies prescribing the conditions when school may be conducted on Saturday and the types of pupil-instruction-related days and approval procedure for those days in accordance with the provisions of 20-1-303 and 20-1-304;
(6) adopt standards of accreditation, including the basic instructional program provided for in 20-7-111, and establish the accreditation status of every school in accordance with the provisions of 20-7-101 and 20-7-102;
(7) approve or disapprove educational media selected by the superintendent of public instruction for the educational media library in accordance with the provisions of 20-7-201;
(8) adopt policies for the conduct of special education in accordance with the provisions of 20-7-402;
(9) adopt rules for issuance of documents certifying equivalency of completion of secondary education in accordance with 20-7-131;
(10) adopt policies for the conduct of programs for gifted and talented children in accordance with the provisions of 20-7-903 and 20-7-904;
(11) adopt rules for student assessment in the public schools; and
(12) perform any other duty prescribed from time to time by this title or any other act of the legislature."
Section 3. Section 20-7-111, MCA, is amended to read:
"20-7-111. Instruction in public schools. The board of public education shall define and specify the basic instructional program for pupils in public schools, including the provisions of [section 1], and such the program shall must be set forth in the standards of accreditation. Other instruction may be given when approved by the board of trustees."
NEW SECTION. Section 4. Codification instruction. [Section 1] is intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 20, chapter 7, part 1, and the provisions of Title 20, chapter 7, part 1, apply to [section 1].
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.
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