Dutch publisher removes controversial text from high school biology book


Western Europe


Pictures of children with Down Syndrome. They are part of a campaign called Down's Upside. Photo ANP, Sander Koning

The Dutch school book publisher Noordhoff has decided to remove a text about children with Down Syndrome from a biology textbook for high school students. It does so after a storm of criticism.

The passage read that the NIPT, a prenatal test, should be used to prevent children with Down Syndrome from being born. “Denmark understood the assignment, but The Netherlands forsakes its prevention duty. That is shown by the fact that there are still more children born with Down Syndrome than is necessary.”

The publisher argues that the text is not part of the teaching material but that it is stated in an exam question, the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. “The question shows an opinion from the media – in this case, from an article by doctor Luc Bonneux, who did not contribute to the content of our biology method – and asks students to reflect on this case. It is all about interpreting information and thinking about it”, the publisher said in a press release.

Noordhoff will replace the question with another one. In addition, the publisher will reconsider all the other exam questions. The method has not been published yet.


The passage in question caused a storm of upheaval on social media after a mother of a child with Down Syndrome made it public. The publisher had asked if it could use a picture of her with her daughter, reading a book. She asked what the text was about and was then confronted with the article from Luc Bonneux.

Her post on Instagram went viral. Several mothers were outraged. Two organisations that fight for the rights of people with Down Syndrome wrote an angry letter to the publisher.

The leader of the Dutch Christian Union Party, Mirjam Bikker, even announced to ask parliamentary questions about the issue. “These children belong to us. They are valuable. Shall we teach our children that?” she tweeted.



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.