Proposed Bible history class postponed

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By Traci Chapman

Mustang Board of Education members on Monday agreed to postpone an elective Bible history class that has drawn national attention.

Although no formal vote was necessary, board members did not raise any objections to Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel’s suggestion the kickoff of a planned Bible history class be suspended until the spring 2015 semester.

“I remain excited about the course but I have a very difficult time, with the information that we have it puts us in an awkward position,” McDaniel told board members.

The issue was twofold, McDaniel said. After months of communications with Green Scholars Initiative, the entity providing the Bible history class curriculum, a full year’s study content would not be available at least until October, the superintendent said. That would mean students would be starting what had become a controversial class for some individuals and organizations with only a portion of those materials studied by district officials before school began.

Another issue raised throughout the Bible history class discussion was legal protection for the district, should someone file a legal challenge. That was also up in the air as of Monday’s meeting, McDaniel said.

“The Alliance for Defending Freedom agreed to review the curriculum by July 24,” he said.

The review was necessary because of possible gaps in insurance coverage from the district’s pool insurance carrier, Oklahoma School Insurance Group. While it appeared the district would have some coverage in the case of legal action, it appeared it would not in others – and nothing was set in stone, in any case, the superintendent said. If a claim for injunctive relief – asking the class be suspended – was filed, it appeared that would not be covered, while OSIG representatives tentatively believed a claim for damages would be covered, he said.

“They cannot make a determination on coverage until a claim is filed,” McDaniel said. “It’s a roll of the dice and I just don’t think that’s wise.”

For the 178 Mustang High School students who selected the elective as part of their fall semester schedule, those individuals would be given choices to replace it, at least for the fall semester, McDaniel said.

“If we do this now, we can give students time to make another choice,” McDaniel said. “They could elect to take first semester humanities, second semester Bible history – if we do this now we’ll have time to do that.”

While the district’s selection of the Green Scholars Initiative class seemed to be a large part of the stated controversy surrounding the class, it was the very way the initiative structured the elective that appealed to officials, they said. GSI’s course includes virtual tours and access to more than 40,000 historical Biblical resources, McDaniel said.

That technology was the program’s biggest draw, board vice president Jim Davis said.

“The electronics piece – that’s what the whole course really hinges around,” Davis said. “To me that was the selling point with the Green content.”

Officials would continue to review both the ever-changing curriculum and any potential legal issues in coming weeks and months, with an eye toward offering the Bible history class during the spring semester, McDaniel said.

“As high profile as this is, I think it’s smart we hold off and do it right,” Davis said.