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Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - Page updated at 01:14 AM

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Federal Way School Board lifts brief moratorium on Gore film

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Federal Way School Board lifted its two-week moratorium on the global-warming film "An Inconvenient Truth" on Tuesday, but that did not entirely quiet a controversy board members said had spun out of control in recent weeks.

Dozens of people showed up at Tuesday's meeting, many of them concerned about the board's view of the film as controversial and therefore subject to a district policy that requires teachers to present other points of view.

In remarks reminiscent of earlier national debates on evolution, residents told the board that, as far as they were concerned, there was no other valid, scientific perspective they could present to students on global warming — apart from the view, presented in the film, that global warming is caused by humans.

"One concern I have is, 'What is considered controversial?' " said Tisa Kosbab, a parent. "How do you measure that in the policy?"

Shortly after the board lifted its moratorium, it became clear that citizens felt something larger than the fate of one film was at stake. Parents on both sides rose to speak about the nature of fact and fiction, and the place of political views in the classroom.

"We're looking for education, not indoctrination," said resident Bill Pirkle.

The original controversy began a few weeks ago, when a district newsletter advertised free copies of "An Inconvenient Truth" to any teacher who wanted to use it. The film features former Vice President Al Gore discussing the theory that global warming is caused by humans. Several parents raised concerns over what they described as the political tone of the film.

The board on Jan. 9 declared a moratorium on classroom showings pending a report from district Superintendent Tom Murphy on whether teachers were following district policies on showing movies and presenting controversial materials.

Murphy reported Tuesday that teachers at Todd Beamer, Decatur and Truman high schools had shown portions of the film. They followed the policy on controversial materials, which requires teachers to point out any bias, and to present other points of view. But they did not get written approval from their principals beforehand, Murphy said.

The board's decision to issue a moratorium was widely misunderstood in blogs and some media reports as a ban on the film. Board members received a flood of e-mail from across the country, most in opposition to their decision, and many containing personal attacks.

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"This entire chain of events demonstrates how crucial it is for us all to make judgments after we hear all of the facts, not just what we initially read, hear or watch," said board member Dave Larson, reading from a four-page letter to the community.

Board members have said they hope this controversy will start a healthy debate about global warming.

A volunteer with The Climate Project, an organization created by Gore to spread the word about global warming, has organized a community viewing of the scientific slide show that was the focus of "An Inconvenient Truth." The slide show will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at Federal Way City Hall.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024

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