Citing concerns it broke state law – and despite insistence from its superintendent to the contrary – the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted to redact pages from its textbooks tied to abortion and reproduction.
The board voted 3-2 at its meeting on Oct. 28 to redact pages from its textbooks given to students that do not offer childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortions, which falls under Arizona Revised Statute 15-115. The move came after both a community member and the Alliance Defending Freedom – a faith-based legal organization – expressed concerns the district violated the statute by using a biology book they said mentions abortion without emphasizing childbirth or adoption.
The textbook, the seventh edition of “Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections” used in high school honors biology classes, presents information about morning after pills like mifepristone that the book states can induce abortion. That section of the text, which also encompasses other forms of contraception, is preceded by information stating abstinence is the “only totally effective form of birth control.”
Board President Staci Burk said during the meeting she didn't think “it requires rocket science” to understand the textbook goes against revised statute.
“We are running the risk of being sued for being out of compliance with the law,” said Boardmember Julie Smith. “I'm really upset that happened; I'm really upset.”
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, however, said the district's attorneys and the Arizona Department of Education reviewed the textbook and accompanying curriculum and determined the district is not breaking statute. She said the district also had not received notification it was not following state law from any other source aside from the community member and ADF.
“I would not self-incriminate that we are not in compliance,” she added.
Burk countered by saying the attorneys did not take into account input from state legislators like Sen. Nancy Barto, who told the board during the call to the public portion of the meeting it should “follow the letter of the law.”
The decision to redact the content was offered by ADF as an option and recommended by Board Clerk Daryl Colvin, who described it as the cheapest, simplest, least disruptive and most efficient way to deal with the issue.
Boardmembers Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys, who represented the two no votes, said they wanted more community input prior to making a decision. Tram also described the decision to redact the textbook as censorship.