DIETRICH • A Dietrich science teacher is being investigated by the state’s professional standards commission after a complaint from parents over his teaching methods.
Tim McDaniel is being investigated after a complaint was filed by a handful of parents who objected to how McDaniel taught the reproductive system, Dietrich Superintendent Neil Hollingshead said.
According to the parents, McDaniel should have given parents more notification about his possible controversial lesson content.
The Dietrich parents are responsible for bringing the complaint before the Dietrich school board. That also led to an investigation by the Idaho Professional Standards Commission.
The state investigation includes allegations that McDaniel taught sex education material in his science class, taught forms of birth control, shared confidential student files with an individual other than their parents, told inappropriate jokes and showed a video clip in class that showed a genital herpes infection.
“As a parent, I want to be notified in advance that this content is going to be taught in class,” said Katie Norman, one of the three parents who raised concerns at the March 12 school board meeting. Norman said she attended the meeting with Jaylyn Shaw and Melinda Robertson.
Together, they raised objections to McDaniel’s science lesson content on the reproduction system. Shaw did not return phone calls from the Times-News, and Robertson’s husband said he and his wife did not want to comment.
Hollingshead told the Times-News on Wednesday that while there is an investigation going on, McDaniel has not been suspended.
“It is highly unlikely it would end with his dismissal,” Hollingshead said. “Maybe a letter of reprimand from the school board.”
“I teach straight out of the textbook, I don’t include anything that the textbook doesn’t mention,” McDaniel said. “But I give every student the option not attend this class when I teach on the reproductive system if they don’t feel comfortable with the material.”
He said that the 10th grade science class includes information on birth control and sexually transmitted diseases because the school’s health teacher declines to teach the material.
“Since I started working here about 17 years ago, I agreed to teach about the reproduction system because I was comfortable with it and he wasn’t,” McDaniel said. “This is the first time someone has objected to the material.”
According to McDaniel, the science class is not for sex education. However, for next year, McDaniel said he plans on giving more parental notification.
“It’s important to teach this to kids,” he said. “Hopefully, the students are being abstinent but most of these students will be getting married a year or two after graduation and they need to know about this.”
According to McDaniel, the commission is also investigating a complaint that accuses him of using school property to promote a political candidate. The complaint was because he showed the climate change film “An Inconvenient Truth,” also in his science class.
McDaniel said he includes the film to spark a discussion on climate change among the students. After watching the film, he asks students to write a response paper explaining their thoughts on climate change.
“I’m not looking for one answer, I just want them to be able to explain what they believe,” he said.
The investigation prompted a Facebook group titled “SAVE THE SCIENCE TEACHER!!”, dedicated to supporting McDaniel. By Thursday, the group had topped more than 2,300 members, up from the 100 members it had on Monday, March 25.
The increase in membership is partly a result of the national news media attention the story has gained since the story broke on Wednesday, March 26.
McDaniel is hoping group members will write to the state commission supporting his teaching content and methods.
“This sort of thing makes you worry about what you teach,” he said. “That’s not right.”
Along with the standards commission, the issue is also being brought before the Dietrich school board, Hollingshead said.
Hollingshead said the board is reviewing the situation but no decision has been made.
While McDaniel feels confident he won’t be fired, he said he doesn’t think it’s fair if he has to sign a letter of reprimand.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “I told them I won’t sign it.”
McDaniel said he planned to submit a letter to the state commission Thursday, March 28, responding to the investigation.