Thursday, January 12, 2006
Steamboat Springs A proposal for an elective high school class that would teach the Bible as a historical document is scheduled to come before the Steamboat Springs School Board this month.
Superintendent Donna Howell said the School Board is scheduled to hear -- and likely act on -- the proposal at its meeting Jan. 23. Proposals for other curriculum changes, including to the high school's Senior Odyssey program, also will be on the meeting's agenda.
Parents Michelle Diehl and Roger Johnson tried to bring the Bible class proposal to the board last spring, but they did not meet the district's deadline for curriculum changes.
School district administrators advised Diehl and Johnson to submit the proposal earlier this school year to make the class eligible to be taught in 2006-07. Diehl and Johnson submitted a proposal form to the district's curriculum committee last week.
Diehl said the National Coun--cil on Bible Curriculum in Pub--lic Schools designs the class, titled "The Bible in History and Literature." The class is a yearlong elective and emphasizes "that the Bible is the foundation document of our society," she said.
"It's not a religious course," Diehl said. "It's basically a history course using the Bible as its main text.
"This is truly a course that should be taught without indoctrination." Diehl has two children in district schools, and she attends the nondenominational Euzoa Bible Church in Steamboat.
School Board President Tom Miller-Freutel said although he looked forward to hearing what Diehl and Johnson have to say, he has concerns about the content of the proposed class.
"I think a class about all religions from a historical perspective is probably appropriate," he said. "But teaching the Christian Bible, that's singling out one religion.
"I don't want to favor one religion over another," he continued. "I don't think that's fair -- even if it is an elective. By offering one single course, we're going against the separation of church and state."
Board member Pat Gleason was on the School Board when Diehl and Johnson attempted to propose the class last spring. He said Thursday that he didn't know how he would vote, if the issue progressed that far Jan. 23.
"I don't have any idea," Gleason said. "I didn't know they were that far along in the process."
Last spring, Diehl and Johnson collected more than 600 signatures in local petitions. The class spawned several letters to the Steamboat Pilot & Today and helped fuel considerable public debate.
Miller-Freutel said he planned to hold another retreat with School Board members -- their first was last month -- to prioritize board issues before the next meeting.
At the top of the list, he said, is Senior Odyssey.
"To be fair to the high school, the board is going to have come to a decision (about Odyssey) on the 23rd," he said.
A decision about the Bible class proposal could occur at a later date.
"I don't know if we're going to be able to make a decision (Jan. 23) on that issue," he said. "We'd be doing (Diehl and Johnson) a disservice to make any kind of a snap decision -- it just depends on what they're bringing to the table."