FRESNO, California (AP) _ A rural California school district agreed to stop teaching a religion-based alternative to evolution as part of a court settlement filed Tuesday.
Frazier Mountain High School will stop teaching the course next week and will never again offer a "course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design,'' El Tejon Unified School District agreed in the settlement.
Parents sued the district last week for violating the constitutional separation of church and state by offering "Philosophy of Design,'' a course taught by a minister's wife that advanced the idea that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence.
"This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class,'' said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed the suit on behalf of 11 parents.
A federal judge in Fresno, who had been scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on whether to halt the class midway through the monthlong winter term, must approve the settlement.
All five of the cash-strapped district's Board of Trustees voted to settle the potentially expensive suit, said Pete Carton, the district's attorney.
The high school in the Tehachapi Mountains about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Los Angeles draws 500 students from a dozen small communities.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State had successfully blocked Dover, Pennsylvania, schools last month from teaching intelligent design in science courses.
El Tejon Superintendent John Wight had defended the class at the Lebec school, saying the subject was proper for a philosophy class meant to introduce students to both viewpoints.