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CA school district sued for violating civil rights in evolution controversy

John G. West

A California school district has been sued in federal court for allegedly violating a parent’s civil rights during a controversy over how to teach evolution.

For more than a year, Larry Caldwell tried to get the Roseville Joint Union High School District outside of Sacramento to consider changing how it taught the theory of evolution in its biology classes. Caldwell, who has three children, says he wanted the district to correct factual errors in its biology textbooks as well as to introduce students to some scientific criticisms of modern evolutionary theory. Caldwell did not propose that the district teach creationism or alternatives to evolution.

The Roseville district ultimately rejected Caldwell’s recommendations. But in the process of trying to scuttle his proposals, Caldwell alleges that the district repeatedly denied him rights and procedures normally afforded to other citizens in the district, banned parents from speaking in favor of his proposals at a public meeting, publicly attacked his personal religious beliefs, spread false rumors about him, and even threatened to sue him and other parents if they continued to speak out.

“I tried to exercise my basic rights as a citizen to propose a new idea, and school officials responded by suspending normal procedures, publicly attacking my personal religious beliefs, and even threatening to sue me to stop me from speaking out,” reported Caldwell. “These are tactics you’d expect in a banana republic, not the state of California.”

A press release and timeline have been issued by Caldwell, and his 96-page legal complaint filed in federal district court is available here.