A Cautionary Tale

Published on: 8/13/2013

Springboro, Ohio has much in common with Germantown. It has a population slightly less than 20,000. It is a suburban bedroom community adjacent to a mid-sized city (Dayton). The towns are even similar politically, as about two thirds of Springboro voters selected Romney. And the Adair family lived in Springboro just prior to our move to Germantown.

Also like Germantown, Springboro schools have a reputation for being very good. For example, the schools possess a coveted “Excellence with Distinction” status from the Ohio Department of Education. Many parents moved to the town because of the public schools. And like in Germantown, the Springboro School Board has been taken over by a group of partisan far right activists.

For the last three years, Springboro has gained national notoriety due to the wack-a-doodle actions of its School Board. A majority of its members are attempting to inject religious teachings and far-right propaganda into the public schools.

The Springboro school board consists of five members. The most vocal member is Board President Kelly Kohls. Heading the Warren County Tea Party, Kohls has a long history as an activist. After being elected in 2010 to the Springboro School Board, she helped to found the Ohio School Boards Leadership Council, an extreme right wing alternative to the non-partisan Ohio School Boards Association. The website of Ms. Kohls' organization lists the Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity as sponsors. The organization is against Common Core standards and takes a strongly anti-teacher stance.

In 2011, Kohls first made a push to introduce religion instruction, under the guise of Creation “Science” into the Springboro schools. In an interview, she said, “Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country. It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country. “ Kohls backed-off for a while after the ACLU issued a letter to the Board describing the illegality of teaching religious dogma in public schools.

Not willing to let the matter drop, in April Kohls' ally Jim Rigano introduced new wording into Board policy statements that would have Springboro science teachers teach Creationism. Under the pretext of providing the students with information on “both sides” of controversial subjects, the policy specified that topics to be given equal consideration include: “evolution/creation, prolife/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change, UN Agenda 21 and sustainable development”.

Ostensibly, the policy is designed to improve critical thinking skills. In actuality, it gives an aura of legitimacy to such balderdash as global warming denial, global conspiracy theories, and the pseudo science of Creationism. In an e-mail obtained by a blogger , Rigano opened up about the true intent of his policy changes. He confessed: “While not specifically stated, one goal of our revised policy is to require science teachers to teach all sides of the evolution theory, including gaps and contrary science.”

Despite a second letter from the ACLU, the current Springboro School Board seems intent on staying the course to bring Creationism into their schools. As of August 8, they were discussing engaging the Liberty Institute, a far right Christian group to help defend their new policy.

Not content to embarrass Springboro on just one issue, the radical Board proceeded with others. They attempted to implement an evening video course on the US Constitution. The problem was that the course is very politically biased, promoting a Tea Party agenda. A promotional e-mail for the course, developed by the Institute on the Constitution, “invites you to learn your Godly American heritage and birthright. You will not only learn the founding documents, but how to USE them to restore and retain your freedoms.”

One of the two video instructors for the course, John Eidsmoe, has been quoted as saying that God preordained slavery and that Jefferson Davis was a better President that Lincoln. Eidsmoe is so extreme that he was deemed too racist to speak at a 2010 Tea Party rally in Wausau, WI ! After much public outrage and media push back, the Constitution classes were finally canceled by the Board.

On top of the other controversies, in January, a Board member suggested arming classroom teachers. (What could possibly go wrong?). With a virulent anti-educator bias, they have driven a record number of excellent staff, teachers, and administrators from the district.

Fortunately, the people of Springboro are fighting back against their Board's radical agenda. Citizens have taken time to organize, petition, blog, and rally in an attempt to repair the Board's abuse of trust. A community group (Springboro United for Responsible Education) was formed. Videos of Board meetings show huge public attendance. (We haven't seen such large audiences at Germantown's Board meetings since last year's Summer Band fiasco ! )

There may be a happy ending to this story. Board President Kohls made an August decision to not run for reelection. And November elections will be held for 3 of the 5 Board seats. The parents of the district might soon take their schools back. They just might be able to install a Board whose top priority is education rather than indoctrination.

Yes, there are many similarities between Springboro, Ohio and Germantown. Of course, nothing like this could ever happen in Germantown, right? Our School Board would certainly not try to implement a radical-right social agenda. Our School Board would never do anything to cause a community uproar.