The Associated Press
BILLINGS, Mont. - A climate scientist's speech to high school students was canceled because members of the rural community were concerned the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's message on climate change would be "anti-agriculture," the superintendent said Thursday.
Choteau schools Superintendent Kevin St. John said school board members pressured him to bring in someone with an opposing viewpoint to speak to the school's 130 students, and he thought canceling the speech was the reasonable and neutral option.
"Nobody wants to believe in science and promote science more than we do," said St. John, who is in his first year running the school district. "It was my decision to bring him in and it was my decision (to cancel him.)"
University of Montana scientist Steve Running said he had never before been canceled in any venue, by any organization. "I think there's a faction of society that is willfully ignorant, that they just don't want to know the facts about this," he said.
Running is a member of the U.N. science panel that shared last year's Nobel with former Vice President Al Gore for raising awareness of global warming and its impact on the Earth.
Some critics are concerned that whatever steps are taken to combat global warming will harm the agriculture industry.
Choteau is a ranching and farming community of about 1,800 at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in central Montana. Members of the school board declined to comment, referring questions to St. John.
The evening of the canceled school speech, Jan. 10, Running spoke in Choteau at the invitation of an environmental group, mostly to a crowd of adults. St. John said many students were attending a basketball game at that time.
The cancellation prompted several people to write to local newspapers to denounce the district's actions.
Choteau High School senior Kip Barhaugh questioned school officials for "spoon-feeding" students information on climate change.
"With this single act, some members of the Choteau School Board not only denied its students access to valuable information about the future of our planet, but they demonstrated their shortsightedness," Barhaugh wrote to the Great Falls Tribune.