Fired TEA Employee Files Appeal

Former director of science curriculum disputes TEA's 'neutrality' on creationism

Chris Comer is not giving up her defense of science ... or her job.

The former director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency was forced to resign in 2007 after forwarding an e-mail announcing a public lecture in which Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at South­eastern Louisiana University, would criticize the teaching of "intelligent design" and creationism in public schools.

The TEA informed Comer that it had a "neutrality" policy on the evolution/creationism issue, which she had violated in forwarding the e-mail. Comer sued on the grounds that the policy was a violation of the Constitution's separation clause – pointing to several court decisions ruling that creationism and intelligent design are religious dogma, not science – but a U.S. district court dismissed her case, remarkably stating that the TEA could enforce its policy "regardless of constitutionality."

On Aug. 5, Comer challenged that decision in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, again disputing the constitutionality of the policy and charging that firing an employee to uphold an unconstitutional policy is in itself an unconstitutional act.

"It is inappropriate to expect the TEA's director of science curriculum to 'remain neutral' on this subject, any more than astronomy teachers should 'remain neutral' about whether the Earth goes around the sun," reads Comer's brief to the court. "There can be no neutrality on an issue that is scientifically and legally clear-cut: evolution should be taught at the K-12 level in the same fashion that we teach it in universities, an accepted and rigorous science, not juxtaposed with a religious idea however politically popular."

Defendants in the suit are both the TEA and its commissioner, Robert Scott.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Texas Education Agency
Texas Education Agency on the Money
Texas Education Agency on the Money
Budget cuts coming to state public schools. Sound familiar?

Austin Sanders, Sept. 21, 2018

Abbott Appoints New Education Commissioner
Abbott Appoints New Education Commissioner
Education advocates criticized Morath for attempting to quietly privatize Dallas ISD

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 25, 2015

More by Lee Nichols
Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015

Beer Flights
Beer Flights
Celis: welcome home

Aug. 17, 2012

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Education Agency, Chris Comer, Robert Scott

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle