Sedalia high school bans T-shirt referencing evolution

Sunday, August 30, 2009 | 6:13 p.m. CDT

SEDALIA — T-shirts promoting the Smith-Cotton High School band's fall program have been recalled because of concerns about the shirt's evolution theme.

Assistant superintendent Brad Pollitt said parents complained to him after the band marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Though the shirts don't violate the school's dress code, Pollitt noted that the district is required by law to remain neutral on religion.

"If the shirts had said 'Brass Resurrections' and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing," Pollitt said.

Designed with the help of band director Jordan Summers and assistant director Brian Kloppenburg, the light gray shirts feature an image of a monkey progressing through various stages of evolution until eventually becoming a human. Each figure holds a brass instrument that also evolves, illustrating the theme "Brass Evolutions."

"I was disappointed with the image on the shirt," said Sherry Melby, a band parent who teaches in the district. "I don't think evolution should be associated with our school."

But other parents were just as dismayed that the shirts were taken away from students at the Sedalia school.

"Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?" asked Alena Hoeffling, who was furious about the decision. "If I wanted my children to be sheltered, I would have enrolled them in private school."

After practice Friday afternoon, band members piled the shirts on a table. Sophomore band member Denyel Luke said the reaction by some to the evolution theme was a little extreme.

"It's not like we are saying God is bad," Luke said. "We aren't promoting evolution."

The district will have to absorb the $700 cost of the shirts, which will be replaced as soon as administrators approve a design for the new ones.


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Ray Shapiro August 30, 2009 | 6:42 p.m.

("If the shirts had said 'Brass Resurrections' and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing," Pollitt said.")
Who in a public school would ever think of promoting a public school band with illustrations of the crucifixtion?
Although, either one of these would be cool.
Maybe they should just take those $700 in T-shirts and put Gabriel on the back.
Seems to me. in a sleepy town like Sedalia, everyone wants to toot their own horn...

(Report Comment)
Tim Murphy August 30, 2009 | 7:30 p.m.

I don't think they have to worry about evolution being associated with their school. I think they have proven that it has passed them completely.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 30, 2009 | 7:40 p.m.


(Report Comment)
Mike Kruse August 30, 2009 | 10:33 p.m.

"Though the shirts don't violate the school's dress code, Pollitt noted that the district is required by law to remain neutral on religion."

So, no law broken. Evolution isn't religion. Pollitt should be a real educator and let the students keep the shirts promoting the use of the scientific method. Evolution doesn't equal religion.

(Report Comment)
Jacob McCandle August 31, 2009 | 10:56 p.m.

Mr. Murphy said it best. Alena Hoeffling has no idea about private schools, she must be an alumni of Smith-Cotton High School. The Catholic school I went to included evolution. How can you make an educated decision about something if you don't know what you're talking about? I guess that's kind of like people who support health care reform. Be careful what you wish for CCCP

(Report Comment)
Emily Walter September 1, 2009 | 12:12 p.m.

Science explains the natural world. Religion explains a spiritual one. The shirts should stay. If you want to argue the shirts are supporting science, instead of fun (their likely purpose)... I'll add that the theory of evolution is supported by all available natural evidence. Scientific theories, by definition, are supported by all of the evidence available. For this reason also, the shirts should be allowed to stay.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Keightley September 23, 2009 | 1:38 p.m.

I am shocked that a parent of a student would say of the school:
"I don't think evolution should be associated with our school."

This is remarkably sad, particularly in a country whose students are lagging behind now in scientific literacy compared to children in many other countries, including most major countries in Europe, and China and India!

Evolution is science. Molecular biologists can show you overwhelming proof for the theory of evolution, but only if you can understand it. Biology and genetics are hard science, and the evidence that has been presented based on hard science is excellent. The theory of evolution is based on facts that are now piled so high it is simply accepted by science to be true.

It does not discount religion at all, which is a different topic. You may reconcile it in your own way, but our children need to be taught facts, not superstition in our public schools. The offending T-shirts are a reflection of just how well established evolution has become (and for very good reasons, and sound science). Of course evolution is not religion. While it is perfectly acceptable to observe the separation of church and state, but PLEASE, do not separate SCIENCE FROM OUR STUDENTS.

(Report Comment)

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