Tim McDaniel isn't sure how he could go about teaching sex education to his sophomore Biology class without saying "vagina."
The Dietrich, Idaho teacher is under investigation by the Idaho Professional Standards Commission (IPSC) after four parents lodged complaint with the state in March over a variety of issues. McDaniel's is concerned for his classroom and the way it could impact the way he teaches climate change.
After a local newspaper broke the story, a firestorm of coverage ensued, focusing on how his sex education ruffled some parents' feathers. You can catch up on the national coverage here, here and here. Be sure and read PolicyMic pundit Nicole Polizzi's satirical take on the matter here.
Neither the state, nor McDaniel, has released documents detailing the specific allegations, but the educator said a letter he received from the IPSC alleges he "shared confidential student files with an individual other than their parents, taught sex education material in his science class, showed a video class depicting an infection of genital herpes, taught different forms of birth control, told inappropriate jokes in class, used inappropriate language in lass and used school property to promote political candidates."
It's the last allegation that gives him pause, and one the press and community has mostly glossed over.
"They are upset because I showed 'An Inconvenient Truth,' but I'm not sure how that's promoting a candidate because he wasn't running and hasn't ran for office since the movie came out," McDaniel said, adding he's shown the film for years.
This year, McDaniel started showing clips from the film "Chasing Ice," and he also presents other material and film clips explaining the Milankovitch theory, which attributes extreme fluctuations in climate to natural phenomena.
This year, it's been reported that anti-science bills have cropped up over the country. In January, the Los Angeles Times revealed these bills would mandate that students be taught a "theoretical alternative" to climate change caused by humans, with DeSmogBlog linking the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council to the effort to push those bills.
However, McDaniel is already teaching both sides.
"I'm already balancing my curriculum with information from both sides of the argument," McDaniel said. "I'm not telling kids what to believe but presenting them with information and letting them decide."
Would Idaho go one step farther and eliminate climate science from the classroom altogether? Perhaps. Many of the state's school districts already do without sex education.
"There are a lot of people out here that don't even want climate science taught," McDaniel said.
Dietrich Superintendent Neil Hollingshead said district action is taking a backseat to the state and wouldn't speculate on how the matter could impact school curricula.Hollingshead said McDaniel has never received any parent complaint before or been subject to district investigation.
"We'll take our direction from the state. I will say it's a shame this complaint didn't come through the district first, so that we could handle it as a district but once it went to the state it's over our heads and out of our hands," Hollingshead said.