Archive for Thursday, October 17, 2013

Schmidt asked to defend state board in science lawsuit

October 17, 2013, 11:28 a.m.

Updated: October 17, 2013, 11:28 a.m.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is being asked to defend the State Board of Education in a lawsuit that challenges the Next Generation Science Standards that were adopted in June.

The board met in executive session for about 30 minutes Tuesday and again for 15 minutes Wednesday to discuss legal matters with the board's attorney Mark Ferguson. After Wednesday's session, Ferguson confirmed that "a majority" of the 10 board members had agreed to sign requests for the attorney general to represent them.

The process was somewhat unusual because the lawsuit, filed by a group called Citizens for Objective Public Education, Inc., names the "Kansas State Board of Education" as a defendant as well as each individual member, in their official capacity.

Ferguson said the attorney general's office is authorized to defend state agencies and their officers in civil claims, when they request it. But because the suit names the board members individually as well, each one wanting representation from the A.G.'s office had to request it individually.

He did not say which board members had asked for representation and which ones hadn't.

The science standards were approved June 11 by a vote of 8-2, with Republicans Ken Willard of Hutchinson and John Bacon of Olathe voting no.

The lawsuit also names the Kansas State Department of Education and Commissioner Diane DeBacker as defendants. They will be defended by Cheryl Whelan, chief counsel for the agency, who is also deputized as an assistant attorney general.

Kansas is one of seven states so far that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. They were developed by a consortium of 26 states, including Kansas, and are intended to bring U.S. science education up to international standards.

The plaintiffs, however, argue that they seek to indoctrinate children into an "atheistic worldview" by treating evolution as a scientific fact and omitting alternative, theological explanations of how species appeared on Earth.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil. No hearing date has yet been scheduled.

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