The issue of intelligent
design is currently the focus of a controversial curriculum promoted
by a public school science teacher in Burlington, Washington.
covering the Burlington controversy
Bar Association Journal Article. November, 1999
Valley Herald. May 8, 1998
Valley Herald. May 30, 1998
Valley Herald. August 28, 1998
Valley Herald. June 12, 1999
Valley Herald. July 13, 1999
Valley Herald, May 28, 2000
Times. June 14, 1999
Newsstand article on the Burlington controversy. February 12, 2000
In support of DeHart, a new group called
"Skagit Parents for Truth in Science Education" was formed by
Paul Creelman and Jerry Benson.
In opposition to DeHart and his
supporters, local residents Carl Johnson, Ken Atkins, Syd
Stapleton and Carl Johnson have formed a group called the "Burlington-Edison
Committee for Science Education." They are being aided by the
Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National
Center for Science Education, and others.
October 15, 1999:
The Statement of Principles for the
Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education (BECSE) is released
and can be found here.
November 8, 1999:
The BECSE issues a press release
announcing that Roger DeHart has agreed to stop using "Of Pandas
and People" in his classroom. The press release follows.
Release: The B-E Committee for Science Education, November 6, 1999 For
Wednesday, November 3rd, members of our committee met with
Burlington-Edison High School Principal Beth VanderVeen and teacher
Roger DeHart to discuss the usage of creationist materials in his class.
the meeting Mr. DeHart announced that he would no longer use the book,
"Of Pandas and People" as supplementary material.
applaud Mr. DeHart's decision. This book has no place in a biology
organization considers this as a victory, the result of our efforts and
the efforts of many others to educate the public and school
administration on the differences between science and pseudo-science.
will continue with our efforts until the Burlington-Edison School
District allows no religious material to be presented under the guise of
B-E Committee for Science Education
February 13, 2000:
Despite Roger DeHart's previous agreement
that he would no longer present material from Of Pandas and People in
the classroom, it appears that DeHart has still been presenting material
that has not been subject to inspection by either the school
administration or the BECSE. When asked for what was presented, DeHart
replies that these materials are no longer available since he
"threw them away." All copies of the material DeHart presented
were also unavailable because they are confiscated before the end of
each class period. Thus, no paper trail is left behind.
Ken Atkins of the BECSE found this
situation totally unacceptable and wrote,
as an individual asking for clarification of the situation,
letter to Superintendent Dr. Rick Jones
as well as a
letter to Principal VanderVeen. As of this
date, Principal VanderVeen has not responded. Dr. Jones called Atkins
and claimed there was a genuine scientific controversy about
evolutionary biology and intelligent design. He expected his teachers to
point this out. However, Jones tried to assure Ken Atkins that
creationism and intelligent design were not being presented in the
disturbing information was discovered when Roger DeHart on CNN's
Newsstand flat out declared, "I
think I can get across the same information and the same evidence using
maybe some less controversial materials. And so, I'll do that."
Atkin's letter also reveals that last year, Roger DeHart's materials
were reviewed by the Instructional Materials Committee (IMC). The
committee rejected all of his materials.
light of DeHart's loss of materials and undue influence on the very
committees who monitor his activity, one can only wonder why the school
administration puts up with this individual.
biology professor Dr. Dave Milne of Evergreen State College became so
alarmed about the situation, he wrote his own letter
to Dr. Jones regarding the alleged "controversy" over
evolutionary biology and intelligent design. Basically, Milne stated
that no such controversy exists.
March 3, 2000, Dr. Dave Milne of Evergreen State College delivered a
lecture courtesy of the Burlington-Edison Committee for Science
Education. The lecture,
held in Burlington-Edison High School’s cafeteria was titled,
“Creationism and Evolution: Teaching the Facts.”
lecture focused on Roger DeHart’s erroneous claims about the Cambrian
Explosion (which lasted seventy million years – longer than the age of
mammals). Dr. Milne
discussed in detail how many kinds of life did not in fact appear during
this period and either predated, or came much later in the geologic
record. Milne’s lecture
was warmly greeted and attendance was estimated to be at least 160
people. Though invited, the
Burlington-Edison school administration, including Roger DeHart, did not
attend the lecture.
Milne’s lecture provided numerous insights into the Cambrian Explosion
that can only leave one to wonder, did the Burlington-Edison school
district ever double check ANY of Roger DeHart’s materials?
Another continuing mystery of course is what exactly Roger DeHart
is teaching in his class. At
this point, the school administration, and Roger DeHart, have yet to
answer this question.
May 28, 2000 the Skagit
Valley Herald reported
that Dr. Rick Jones and Beth Vanderveen reviewed Roger DeHart’s
proposed materials and rejected them.
As of August 24, Roger DeHart is expressly forbidden from
discussing intelligent design in class, nor is he allowed to present any
of his proposed materials that allegedly cast doubt on the theory of
this did not stop Roger DeHart from presenting his proposed materials
regarding the Cambrian Explosion to creationist sympathizers in Kansas
during the month of July. Nevertheless,
it appeared to have had no effect since creationists were defeated in
the Kansas Republican school board primaries.
It was interesting to see how the Discovery Institute and Roger
DeHart leveraged their battle in Burlington to extend the battle
regarding origins into other states.
Hosting Creationist Lectures
Alliance Church hosted a creationism video series produced by "Back
to Genesis" and hosted by Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist in the
fall of 1998.
last half of 1998 also witnessed a series of fourteen creationist
lectures delivered by local resident Dr. Gary Johnson MD at Bethany
Covenant Church in Mount Vernon. Particularly odd was the glowing
lecture regarding the Paluxy River tracks, long since disavowed by
mainstream creationists including the Institute for Creation Research.
The tenth lecture was delivered by Roger DeHart. However, DeHart made no
comment regarding the claims about the Paluxy River.
927 East Fairhaven Avenue
Burlington, WA 98223
301 North Burlington Blvd
Burlington, WA 98233
Center for Science Education
P.O. Box 9477
Berkeley, CA 94709-0477
Having acquired a copy of "Of Pandas
And People" (Houghton Press, 2nd Edition) and Phillip Johnson's
"Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds" (Intervarsity Press),
Roger DeHart's use of the movie "Inherit the Wind" strongly
suggests that he was using Phillip Johnson's book as a playbook for his
strategy of presenting intelligent design. Understanding the numerous
errors of Johnson's book could be very applicable in this incident.
A troubling characteristic of this
growing controversy was the attention focused on the legality of
presenting intelligent design concepts in the public school classroom.
Since Roger DeHart largely controls the presentation of his curriculum,
it is doubtful that his students were informed that intelligent
design and Michael
Behe's concept of Irreducible Complexity have been repeatedly
debunked. The existence of a supernatural creator is largely a
distraction from a more important issue, "Was Roger DeHart
presenting legitimate science?"
Special thanks to the biology staffs at
Western Washington University, SKagit Valley College, Dr. Milne of
Evergreen State College, the Washington State ACLU, the National Center
for Science Education,
and Pierre Stromberg.
1996-97 - In May/June of each school year, Roger DeHart incorporates 1996-97 excepts from "Of Pandas and People" and "Inherit
the Wind" into his freshman biology class and omits the human
origins section from the district's selected biology textbook. He
describes his presentations variously as both creationism and Intelligent Design.
Student witnesses also describe one- sided presentation methods and bullying towards
those students who disagree.
1996-97 Beth VanderVeen's first year as principal of Burlington- Edison
May 1997 DeHart uses an 8-page excerpt from Pandas.
June 1997 ACLU receives complaint from a parent whose child was
in DeHart's class in 1996-97. Although later Roger DeHart publicly
claims he is only trying to promote critical thinking in his classroom,
an "Inherit the Wind" test shows reveals how he
treats a 14 year old female student who disagree with him.
July 15, 1997 ACLU sends letter of complaint to Superintendent Paul
Aug 5, 1997 ACLU asks Chaplik to please respond to their July 15th
Aug 27, 1997 DeHart tells Chaplik that ACLU's allegations are
Sept 3, 1997 Chaplik tells ACLU that he believes DeHart and will take
no action, but will ask Principal VanderVeen to monitor DeHart's
January 1998 Letters from ACLU and Eugenie Scott of the National
Center for Science Education request that Chaplik take action.
February 9, 1998
Chaplik announces his resignation as Superintendent.
March 23, 1998 In response to a public disclosure request, VanderVeen
tells ACLU that she had no paper trail from earlier principals regarding DeHart.
May 1998 Chaplik retires.
May 4,1998 ACLU sends letter to school board president Oscar
Lagerlund asking them to take action.
May 4,1998 Burlington-Edison announces that it has hired Rick Jones
as new school superintendent.
May 8, 1998 Skagit Valley Herald runs article titled "ACLU
Alleges Illegal Creationism Teaching." Issue becomes the subject of public debate and letters to the editor thereafter.
May 30, 1998 Skagit Valley Herald runs article "Teaching or
May-June 1998 DeHart teaches his evolution section. He uses the
same excerpt from Pandas as in 1997.
June 3, 1998 Lagerlund tells ACLU he rejects their concerns, but that
the school board will review the matter prior to the beginning of the
next school year.
Aug 17, 1998 Memo from VanderVeen to DeHart says DeHart did not
follow proper procedures to approve Pandas as supplemental materials. He is not to use any materials not
approved through the Instructional Materials Committee (IMC).
Aug 21, 1998 DeHart's attorney, Richard Sybrandy, (recommended from
the Rutherford Institute) attends a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
hearing concerning Curriculum Controversies in Biology. Mentions Dehart.
this site (one of several.)
Aug 28, 1998 Skagit Valley Herald runs article titled "Creationism
out of BEHS Classroom." Jones says school will stick to teaching science.
Aug 31, 1998 Richard Sybrandy, sends his first letter to VanderVeen
urging her to reconsider.
Fall 1998 Jones and VanderVeen meet with Jonathan Wells and David DeWolf
of the "Discovery Institute" and have a "good discussion
about the areas of evolution theory in question."
Nov 29,1998 DeHart gives a lecture as part of a course offered
in "Creation Science" at local church. Event is taped February 5, 1999.
Feb 5 1999
Discovery Institute's "Wedge" document is leaked on the
internet. This is the DI's
20 year promotional plan to get intelligent
design accepted into the public. (Note - no science, just promotion.)
March 1999 DeHart and Sybrandy write to and meet with VanderVeen
and Jones in attempts to negotiate curriculum.
May 19,1999 DeHart submits a package of materials for approval to
the IMC. It includes excerpts from a number of different sources, including Pandas. Jones sends a cover memo to the IMC summarizing
the background of the controversy. The IMC is asked to address a series of
May 21, 1999 IMC hears presentation from DeHart about his
proposed materials. Lawyer Sybrandy was present.
May 22, 1999 Sybrandy sends e-mail to IMC member Don Zorn complaining that it was discriminatory for IMC members to question
the appropriateness of using a science text published by a religious
publisher. In an undated memo to IMC member Cathy Pfahl, Zorn clarifies this issue to avoid further accusations.
May 24, 1999 The IMC sends VanderVeen a memo recommending that she reject the materials. VanderVeen and DeHart have some sort of meeting
at 3:15 on this date.
May 24, 1999
(approx.) DeHart calls IMC member Robert Adeline and berates him for
voting with the IMC. He makes overtly religious
references, along the lines of "as a Christian, how could you do this?" Adeline is upset by the call, and informs fellow IMC
members about it.
May 25, 1999 VanderVeen sends DeHart a memo forwarding him the
IMC's report. The memo says she received the report on May 25. She says she "supports their recommendation," but also asks to schedule
a meeting with DeHart for May 27. Handwriting at the bottom of the page says
"Met w/Roger @ 3:15 pm 5/24/99."
May 26, 1999 Sybrandy writes to VanderVeen, complaining that the
IMC engaged in religious discrimination against publishers,
and offering to pare down the volume of materials.
May 27, 1999 According to a memo later written in July, VanderVeen and
DeHart have meeting and VanderVeen agrees that he may use
a four-page Pandas excerpt. DeHart is to use the Pandas material only to introduce students to "Irreducible Complexity," he is to
avoid using the words "God" and "Intelligent Design," and he is
to provide his students with an article from an evolutionist responding to the
Irreducible Complexity material.
DeHart teaches his human origins section presumably as to
his early June, 1999 agreement with VanderVeen.
June 12, 1999 Skagit Valley Herald runs article titled "Teacher
Gains OK to use Creationist Text."
June 13, 1999 Skagit Valley Herald publishes article "Curriculum controversy resurfaces in Burlington: Groups form on
both sides in discussion of origins"
June 14, 1999 Seattle Times runs article
"Creationist book to be
used in Burlington" by The Associated Press. Bellingham Herald runs same
July 1999 VanderVeen sends DeHart
a memo regarding their agreement of
his approval to use four pages from Pandas and that he is to present another
article from on the subject to demonstrate how scientists subscribing to
evolution view "Irreducible Complexity." (during prior 1998/99
Summer 1999 Numerous letters to the editor on the creationism
controversy. School district receives a lot of mail, mostly supporting DeHart. A parent group forms to combat creationism in the schools. (Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education)
Summer 1999 Pierre Stromberg builds website with information about
the Burlington controversy.
Aug 1, 1999 ACLU sends letter asking for reconsideration
of VanderVeen/DeHart agreement.
Aug 20, 1999 In response to ACLU letter, Jones ratifies
VanderVeen's compromise with DeHart. District position is that DeHart
is not teaching creationism, but is presenting additional legitimate
scientific debate regarding the evolution curriculum. He promises to
monitor DeHart's classroom.
Aug 20, 1999 In letter to Howard Pellett of Humanists of North
Puget Sound, Jones says BESD, "is opposed to the teaching of
and/or intelligent design. Our biology classrooms will be
carefully to ensure that only materials formally approved will be
Aug 20, 1999 Skagit Valley Herald publishes DeHart as a "Voice of
the Valley" editorial
Sept 3, 1999 In response to Ken Atkins letter, Jones states that
no separate documents exist regarding plans for monitoring, but that it
will involve the following: (1) DeHart will present VanderVeen a copy of
his lesson plans ahead of time and (2) there will be classroom
Sept 13, 1999 In response to ACLU public disclosure request, Jones
says that DeHart has never shared notes on lesson plans with
any supervisor before; there are currently no lesson plans or notes
regarding the teaching of evolution in the 1999-2000 school year; and
there is no existing description of plans by the school district to
Sept 28, 1999 Laurel Browning reports at IMC meeting that Robert
Aleline has resigned from committee. Also brought up at meeting-
does professional conduct come into play if a Burlington-Edison employee personally
attacks IMC members for the group's decision on curriculum
Oct 4, 1999 Ken Tallquist, an English teacher at BEHS, has a series
of guest speakers to talk about the evolution controversy for his 11th
and 12th grade English class. The first speaker is Rick Jones. Val Mullen, a professor at Skagit Valley Community College who agreed
to present the case for science, asks to observe DeHart's presentation
so she could better address it in her own talk. Jones tells her no outside
adults can attend, for fear of disruption.
Oct 5, 1999 DeHart speaks to Tallquist's English class.
Oct 7, 1999 Mullen speaks to Tallquist's English class.
Oct 8,1999 At last minute suggestion by DeHart, Jonathan Wells of
the Discovery Institute speaks to Tallquist's class.
Oct 12, 1999 Paul Creelman's DeHart support group issues a
flyer announcing its sponsorship of an October 20 lecture by Wells.
VanderVeen distributes it to (at least some) BEHS faculty, with the
handwritten note "Rick [Jones] thought you might be interested in
Oct 14, 1999 ACLU sends new public disclosure request asking for,
among other things, the article referred to in VanderVeen's July 1999
memo (What material's did DeHart use in class last spring that was
Oct 20, 1999 Wells gives evening lecture to community sponsored
by DeHart's support group, Skagit Parents for Scientific Truth. During
lecture Wells says DeHart deserves a round of applause. DeHart
supporters give standing ovation. Event is taped.
Oct 25, 1999 In response to
ACLU, district says that the
article DeHart used in class was "an outline of the theory of evolutionary theory, which he found on the Internet." No copies
retained or further identification provided.
Nov, 1999 American
Bar Association Journal publishes article titled "Evolution of a Controversy" containing numerous quotes from participants.
Nov 3, 1999
In response to a challenge to the Pandas excerpt
parent Jeremy Means filed during the summer, a building-level conference is held. DeHart and VanderVeen met with
and Carl Johnson. DeHart says that he will not use Pandas excerpt any more. He refuses to commit
as to what he will use next
year, neither confirming nor denying that he would use writings of Michael Behe, Denton, or William Dembski. (Discovery Institute fellows.)
DeHart states that Dembski is a good friend of his. No further details provided about the supplemental material used in 1999 class, or what
will be used in 2000. No commitments made about how DeHart will be monitored.
Dec 6, 1999 ACLU attorney Richard Berley letter to BESD attorney
Cliff Foster on behalf of ACLU expresses continued concern over DeHart's teaching methods.
Jan 17, 2000 Skagit Valley Herald runs Education Focus "Point/Counterpoint" with views of the 'Burlington-
Edison Committee for Science' and 'Skagit Parents for Scientific Truth.'
Jan 21, 2000
It is learned that in 1999 DeHart did
not present an evolutionary response to "Irreducible
Complexity" in 1999 class as he was directed to do by VanderVeen.
Feb 8, 2000 CNN "News Stand" broadcasts story on the
controversy. Interviews with various participants. Jones says
creationism will not be taught at Burlington-Edison. DeHart says he will teach similar ideas, but with less provocative materials.
Feb 8, 2000
Christian Science Monitor publishes Article, "Whose 'Science'?
Feb 9, 2000 Roger DeHart speaks as the invited guest of the Christian Legal Society student group at the University of
Washington law school.
March, 2000 Ken Atkins sends letters to
the District objecting to DeHart's
March 2000 statements on CNN, and demands response from District.
March 3, 2000 BECSE sponsors lecture by Dr. David Milne from The
Evergreen College entitled, "Evolution vs. Creationism: Teaching the Facts" at BEHS. Event is taped.
March 31,2000 Deadline passes for which for any supplemental materials
that are to be used by teachers to be sent to VanderVeen for approval.
April 2000 DeHart is seen signing autographs at a conference organized
by the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University in Texas. The Polanyi
Center is a think tank created by the Baylor administration in 1999 to build a bridge between religion and science. However, the conference is
the first time many of the faculty learn of the Polanyi Center's existence. The Baylor senate later calls for the Center to be
dismantled. William Dembski of the Discovery Institute is director of the MP Center.
(Website now closed)
April 30, 2000 At an adult Sunday School class visited by Ken Atkins,
DeHart reports on the Baylor conference and reveals that he intends to use supplemental materials in his class regarding peppered moths and
Haeckel's embryo drawings. DeHart predicts the ACLU will sue, making DeHart a nationally renowned figure, like Scopes.
May 2, 2000 DeHart presents to VanderVeen written materials he would
like to use including a short video clip.
May 5, 2000 VanderVeen sends DeHart letter stating she will (1)
review the materials, (2) have the B-EHS science department review the
materials and seek their input and recommendations, and (3) determine
how to make the materials available to the public as the IMC deadline has
May 12, 2000 Parents Sid Stapleton, Ken Atkins and Carl
Johnson meet with Jones and VanderVeen and have a good discussion about
the materials in question. Issues include whether DeHart's newly submitted supplemental materials will be approved, and what steps
will be taken to monitor his classroom performance.
May 24, 2000 Mark Toney, Science Dept. representative writes
VanderVeen stating they believe that the articles as presented should not be used in Biology class.
May 26, 2000 VanderVeen tells DeHart she is denying permission for him to use the supplemental material referenced in his May 2, 2000 letter.
May 28, 2000 Skagit Valley Herald reports that principal VanderVeen rejected DeHart's request to approve five articles
as supplemental materials for his biology classes. The materials dealt with peppered moths, Haeckel's embryos, (Materials that Wells used
as handouts in his lecture last October.) and the Cambrian Explosion.
Article-"School officials throw extra science materials out of
May/June 2000 DeHart teaches his
evolution section in class.
July 15, 2000 DeHart presents material promoting the Discovery Institute's view of the Cambrian explosion in Kansas City during
the "Intelligent Design conference."
tape of presentation.
Oct 26, 2000 Jonathan Wells has book signing and lecture in Seattle concerning his new book, "Icons of Evolution."
Burlington-Edison High School is briefly mentioned in book.
Nov 18, 2000 BECSE receives Civil Libertarian Award from ACLU in Seattle.
December 13. 2000
Principal Beth VanderVeen receives letter from DeHart stating the seven
materials (with copies of the materials) he wants to use for next year.
"Not Black or White" Coyne book review, Nature, Nov. 5, 1998
"Abscheulich!" Gould article, Natural History, March 2000
Six diagrams from "Icons of Evolution" Wells book
"A little fish challenges a giant of Science" Hereen, Boston
Globe , May
"Natural Selection & Evolution" spiral book (Unit #7) by
January 5, 2001
BECSE receives copy of articles
DeHart wants to use from VanderVeen. It is learned that DeHart wants to
teach his evolution chapter in late February/March instead of May/June.
January 12, 2001
BESCE attempts to borrow spiral booklet (Unit #7) by Thompson for
review, but was told this material has not been approved, so we can't
have it. (DeHart's decision.) Yet we receive units 1 and 2.
February 2, 2001
Parents Syd Stapleton, Ken Atkins and Carl Johnson meet with VanderVeen
and have a good discussion about the newly submitted supplemental
materials requested to be approved. Copy of Unit #7 is provided for our
February 22, 2001
VanderVeen says she will not make her decision until after the March 13
school bond vote is done.
Letter to the Editor from Jerry Benson appears saying not to vote for
the school bond because of the DeHart issue.
March 13, 2001
School bond passes with 69% approval of voters.
May 15, 2001
Students pass out bookmarks entitled "Ten
Questions To Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution" by Jonathan Wells
classroom. (Questions available at DI website)
May 16, 2001 "Banned
in Burlington" lecture at High School by Bruce
Chapman, Jonathan Wells, David DeWolf of the Discovery Institute. Also
appearing was Roger DeHart. In the written program for the event
participants are asked to consider running for the two open school board
positions this fall.
May 16, 2001 Skagit Valley Herald
reports "Burlington-Edison district rejects teacher's materials critical
June 2001 Ken
Tallquist leaves BE School District to accept job as
Vice-Principal at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
July 22, 2001
Skagit Valley Herald reports that DeHart is reassigned to earth sciences
at B-E High School.
July 22, 2001
Skagit Valley Herald reports changes in enrollment prompted reassignment
August 9, 2001
Skagit Valley Herald reports DeHart has accepted a job in the
Marysville-Pilchuck High School to teach life sciences.
August 10, 2001
Everett Herald reports that Roger DeHart will be teaching earth sciences
in the Marysville School District. School officials were unaware of his
former high profile role in teaching public school students a variation
of creationist theory in biology class.
August 19, 2001
August 19, 2001 Everett Herald reports
"Survival of the fittest teacher?
21, 2001 Everett Herald reports
"Science teacher's position approved"
May 10, 2002 "Icons
of Evolution" film premiers at Seattle Pacific University.
Review of film.