Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Dangerous Cut

From the Traverse City Record-Eagle:

Tom Czarny hates having to take an Xacto knife to his students’ textbooks, and he’d like to see it change.

Czarny teaches advanced placement biology at Traverse City Central High School. Page 994 of the class textbook includes a brief passage about abortion, which he dutifully cuts out before students get the books.

It’s a decision Czarny inherited and one Traverse City Area Public Schools officials said is influenced by state law that prohibits the teaching of abortion “as a method of reproductive health.”

“It’s just an unhappy reality,” Czarny said. “I don’t like anything involving censorship. It’s counterproductive and counter-intuitive to the goal of education.”

TCAPS Superintendent James Pavelka said he was unaware the district was removing anything from textbooks until the Record-Eagle inquired about the practice.

But Sue Wilson, a TCAPS school nurse who chairs the district’s sex education advisory board, said the district’s administration sought a legal opinion in the 1980s and decided to remove any textbook references to abortion in the context of reproductive health.

Assistant Superintendent Jayne Mohr said since the state law is subject to some interpretation, TCAPS chose to err on the side of caution. The district could not immediately provide a copy of the 1980s legal opinion.

One thing is certain: if the students don’t learn all the facts about sex education and reproductive health in school, they’re going to find out about it the hard way.