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New Dover School Board Quashes Evolution Disclaimer

DOVER, PENNSYLVANIA--Last night, the newly constituted school board here quietly made a historic move, voting unanimously to rescind a policy requiring students to be informed about Intelligent Design (ID) as an alternative to evolution.

The vote complies with a sweeping and scathing decision by U.S. Middle District Court Judge John Jones III, which was designed to warn schools around the country that ID is not science (ScienceNOW, 20 December 2005). The month before the ruling, Dover citizens voted eight pro-ID members off the board and replaced them with a slate from Dover CARES, a group set up to counter the old board's policy (ScienceNOW, 9 November 2005).

At its first meeting last night, the board wasted no time, whizzing through its agenda in little over an hour. During the meeting, it entertained comments from several parents and teachers. Dover resident Keith DiGiovanni excoriated the ID-promoting Thomas More Law Center, which provided legal aid to the defense, for "using" the Dover community to create a "media circus" around the ID debate. "Neighbor was pitted against neighbor, brother against brother," he said. "They held up their own clients as laughingstock to the nation and the world."

There was also mention of possible plans to initiate a science and religion course where ID could be discussed. Some people would rather not see any mention of ID at all. Biology teacher Steve Stough noted that not only does ID not belong in the science curriculum, it is also "both vacuous and logically fallacious" as philosophy or religion. "I implore you to please allow ID to die the ignoble death that it has earned here in Dover," he said.

The Dover community is still closely divided over ID--the new board squeaked in with only 51% of the vote. But the meeting was mostly attended by supporters of Dover CARES, and Sheilah Harkness, president of the ousted school board, told Science she doesn't know of any organized resistance to the court decision.

The most immediate concern of community members is how to foot the bill for the trial. The plaintiffs--11 Dover parents--are entitled to recover legal costs, which total more than $1 million, from the school board. Now, lawyers for the board are negotiating with the plaintiffs' lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton. As for Dover's experience with a 21st century Scopes trial, most residents seem to agree with new board member Rob McIlvaine, who said: "I just want to forget about it."

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