Glimmer of hope for those Arizona honors biology textbooks


This was supposed to be the day when the superintendent of public schools in Gilbert, Arizona, would present a plan (pdf) for redacting the kids’ honors biology textbooks. The Tea Party majority on the school board voted last month to remove references to abortion from the books, which have been in use for several years now in the district.  The board ordered the superintendent to figure out how to do it. 

One of five biology textbooks the Gilbert, Arizona, school district says needs redacting under an order by the school board.

One board member suggested that the fastest means was to tear out those pages:

“The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page,” said board member Daryl Colvin.

Board president Staci Burk told the Arizona Republic that parents had already volunteered to help with the redacting, whether by tearing out the pages or cutting out the paragraphs with scissors or blacking them out with a Sharpie. Even after voters undid the Tea Party majority in the elections this month, Burk told us that she expected the superintendent to report back today with a plan for carrying out the board’s order. “I don’t believe there will be any more discussion on the textbooks,” she said. 

The board may have failed to account for the opinion of the superintendent herself.

A district spokesperson tells us that Dr. Christina Kishimoto, who is new to the district, believes that the honors biology textbooks already comply with Arizona law about mentions of abortion and that there’s no need to change the books. Kishimoto talked to the board about this yesterday, and now the superintendent does not intend to offer a plan tonight for pulling back information from students. Instead, the board and the superintendent will hold a public discussion about what, exactly, the board wants taken out of the honors biology textbooks.

“Now the board has come back and said, ‘Hey, wait, we want further clarification,’ ” said spokesperson Irene Mahoney-Paige. “We’re back to where we started.”

At a minimum, this represents a delay in ripping out pages from the Gilbert textbooks. It’s possible that the outgoing majority on the board will still order the superintendent to formulate a plan for taking out those pages. The board could also decide to agree with the superintendent that the books are OK as is. Or they could ask for more time to decide the matter, effectively running out the clock on their own decision. The new majority takes over the Gilbert school board in January, and at least two of those members say they favor adding information to the books, not taking it away. 

Member-elect J. Charles Santa Cruz spent three decades working in education, with 20 years as the principal at Gilbert High School. “Those textbooks were certainly in the building while I was there,” Santa Cruz told us. “We never had any challenge to them or a problem.”

We’ll keep you posted about the board meeting tonight. Meanwhile, we’ve preserved the pages – front and back – that have been up for disappearing. You can see them at


The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/31/14, 9:20 PM ET

School board to rip out textbook's abortion mention

Rachel Maddow reports on an Arizona town’s school board’s decision to remove references to abortion in a high school honors biology textbook by literally tearing out the page containing the offending references. Maddow offers students an alternative.


Glimmer of hope for those Arizona honors biology textbooks