A quiet day in court

Calling the day’s proceedings “short” and “abbreviated,” Judge Jones ended a two-hour stint just before 4:45 p.m. after hearing testimony from one witness. Dr. Richard D. Nilsen, the Dover Area School District superintendent, was called to the stand by defense attorney Patrick Gillen at 2 p.m.

Nilsen’s testimony focused on his recollection of the time period from January 2002 through fall 2004 at the Dover Area School District. His attorney presented Nilsen with a number of documents and asked that Nilsen identify and discuss the documents. Among the documents was a memo written by former Dover Area School District principal Trudy Peterman. In the April 2003 memo, Peterman advised district officials that the science teachers in Dover Area High School were teaching both evolution and creationism. Nilsen identified another document as a letter from Messiah College advertising a seminar on “Creationism and the Law” – a seminar to which he sent his assistant superintendent.

In addition to Nilsen’s testimony about a variety of documents, Nilsen also testified about various board meetings. He recalled one board meeting when former school board director Bill Buckingham’s wife, Charlotte Buckingham, spoke. Nilsen said Mrs. Buckingham spoke during the public comment period and read from the Bible. Nilsen testified that she “rambled on” and “there was no point.” He further testified that it was inappropriate and embarrassing.

Nilsen’s testimony will continue at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, 2005.

Submitted by Paula K. Knudsen, ACLU-PA Staff Attorney