by David Safier
Arizona is making Culture War news once again, earning us negative press from, among others, the New York Times and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show. This time the news comes from the Gilbert School District school board, where a 3-2 majority wants to black out or cut out a few pages from a high school biology book. The reason: The pages give information about contraception and morning after pills. According to the board majority, that's illegal.
A law passed two years ago in Arizona requires schools to teach “preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption” over abortion, and the school board decided that those pages were in violation of this law — even though the Arizona Education Department, which examined the book for compliance, found that they were not.
But a bit of crystal ball gazing tells me we're going to see more of this over the next four years of the Douglas-Ducey educational regime. The two may not agree on Common Core, but Ducey has kissed the ring of Cathi Herrod over at the religious-far-right Center for Arizona Policy, and Douglas is pure, uncut, unfiltered Tea Party, so they should find lots of common ground on the ways religion and sexuality should be dealt with in the classroom.
Douglas' powers as Ed Supe may be limited in lots of ways, but a look back at John Huppenthal's decision on Mexican American Studies, that it was illegal and had to be squashed, gives a hint of what she can do. The next time a situation like the one in Gilbert comes up, her Dept. of Ed. could read the law the same way as the "Just say no to sex and abortion" crowd and demand all Arizona school districts using the textbook remove the offending pages or face a loss of state funds until they comply.
Meanwhile, the ultra-conservative triangle of Cathi Herrod, Republican legislators and Doug Ducey could strengthen the anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion education laws, giving Douglas a stronger hand, just like the legislature created an anti-MAS law to allow Huppenthal to dismantle the program.