March 12, 1998 in Idaho

Youngsters’ Needs Our Real Concern

By The Spokesman-Review

Ringleaders of the Kootenai County Property Owners Association must be slapping high fives.

For them, the Post Falls School District controversy over creationism couldn’t come at a better time. The hubbub is sure to hurt attempts to pass the March 24 bond election. And the naysayers already are armed with Idaho’s unfair supermajority law, which has helped them torpedo two of three unsuccessful bonds.

Last week, the tax activists must have smiled smugly when a patron threatened to vote against the bond unless creationism is taught, too: “If you want your new school,” she warned trustees, “I have to be sure that my kids will get a full education.”

Voters, however, should resist the temptation to link the unrelated matters. The district shouldn’t be held hostage by a decades-old controversy. If patrons want to get worked up about something, they should remember Nick Scherling, the middle schooler who was killed by a motorist while walking home in the dark last November. He might be alive today if the district had built a new high school and ended double shifting at the middle school.

It’s time for school officials and patrons to close ranks behind the community’s children. For years, Superintendent Richard Harris has made a compelling case for a new high school. Construction of that school is needed to end serious overcrowding in the Post Falls district.

Besides, patrons who support creationism must admit they’ve been given a fair hearing.

In some districts, backers of scientific creationism would have been shown the door as soon as they challenged the theory of evolution. In Post Falls, however, trustees now have spent two evenings listening to patrons discuss the volatile issue. Now, Harris has developed a plan to deal with it.

Harris’ proposal includes: requesting opinions from the Idaho attorney general’s office and the Idaho School Boards Association on how creationism can be covered legally in schools, obtaining a sample lesson plan for creationism, seeking the opinion of the local clergy, and researching how other states deal with the issue.

School officials must be cautious not to invite a costly lawsuit. Patrons, on the other hand, must be careful not to be duped by emotion and opportunistic tax activists into shirking their civic duty - again.

The Post Falls School District has come a long way since May 1994, when the first high school bond election failed to win even majority support. Harris has played a major role in rebuilding the district’s reputation. Now, it’s the community’s turn to get its act together.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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