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West York OKs textbook after striking it over climate change

The West York Area school board unanimously approved a textbook Monday after some members voted it down May 19 because of its teachings on climate change.

In May, five members voted against the text, "Rubenstein: The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 13th edition," following one member's claim that its content was anti-capitalist and anti-American.

On Monday night, the board reversed itself and voted 8-0 to approve the text for AP Human Geography. Board member George Margetas was absent.

"I do believe that some of those 'no' votes were based on personal beliefs, biases and educational ignorance that have no place on a school board," said board member Jeanne Herman.

Human-driven climate change is widely accepted among the scientific community. NASA, the Pentagon and researchers at universities throughout the world have tracked and studied it for years.

In 2019, a study by the U.S. Department of Defense said rising sea levels could displace millions by 2100 and result in significant global unrest. 

Herman said she found it insulting to teachers that they would be accused of "brainwashing" students.

The textbook, published by Pearson, was challenged in May when board member Lynn Kohler said its content failed to present alternative theories about the warming planet.

Lynn Kohler

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Kohler and board member Todd Gettys had said they didn't want to endorse the text with taxpayer money. Kohler likened it to left-wing "indoctrination." 

"Last meeting, I had asked for the opportunity to read into it a little bit more so that I could make an educated decision," board member Brandy Shope said Monday.

Shope was among the five board members who voted against the textbook in May, arguing board members needed more time to review it. 

West York Area school board on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Top row, left to right: Douglas Hoover, Donald Carl, Todd Gettys, Lynn Kohler. Bottom row, left to right: Courtney Dennis, Jeanne Herman, Suzanne Smith, Brandy Shope.

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Board President Suzanne Smith had said the text had been available for review ahead of time.

Shope on Monday said she spent all weekend poring over the text and was pleased to find a wide range of topics including bike lanes, gender equality, international trade, AirBnbs, regulating social content and cyber attacks.

"Each chapter that’s in it gives you the opportunity to debate," she said.

Gettys said the vote last month had a "false sense of urgency" and in the future, if the majority of members have questions, it should be postponed.

Kohler had said at the last meeting that his main issue with approving the textbook was not the content itself but the fact that the text is bought with taxpayer money.

He had noted his approval of the course as an independent study.

High school Principal Carrie Jones confirmed the course will be offered as an independent study next year, but not because of any concerns cited by the board.

Course classification depends on enrollment, and so far, only five had signed up.

It's too late into the planning process to make it an elective, but that would be an option for the future, she said.