Do parents have a say in what schools teach their kids?
A new battle is shaping up as the federal courts increasingly rule against parental rights while state legislatures seem determined to give parents a choice
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
Should a Hindu foundation be allowed to finance yoga instruction in California grade schools – despite vehement parental objections? Should a student production featuring cross-dressing and gender confusion go ahead in Utah despite protests from furious parents?
Should Massachusetts teens be subjected to school assemblies in which lovemaking techniques are described in detail by a gay-rights group – even after parents have battled and lost in court for the right to pull their own children out of such sessions?
Parents have rights, say the New Hampshire, Texas and more than 40 other state legislatures. Parents have no such rights, say federal courts.
And thus a new battle seems to be shaping up as the courts increasingly rule against parental involvement in their children's education while state legislatures seem determined to give parents a veto over what their child is taught. New York’s legislature allows parents “to opt their children out of sex education classes,” writes K.J. Dell’Antonia in the New York Times. “Texas allows for the exception of students from any class or activity that ‘conflicts with a parent’s religious or moral beliefs.’ Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s law is the most far-reaching, permitting parents “to have their children opt out of anything from the teaching of evolution to the teaching of phonics.”
It was yoga that had Encinitas, California, parents up in arms.
“Should yoga sessions in public schools be subject to the same restrictions as religious ceremonies?” asks the North County Times newspaper. “A group of 60 Southern California parents thinks so – they want to pull yoga out of their school district’s curriculum.
“The yoga controversy is the latest twist on the contentious issue of anything having to do with religion in schools funded by taxpayer dollars,” notes Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center. “In this case, a lawyer for the parents says yoga has ties to Hinduism and that there is no place for it in the Encinitas Union School District.
“There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices,” the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, told the Times.
At issue was a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, founded by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who according to the Jois website “spent his entire life dedicated to the study, practice, and transmission of Ashtanga Yoga, and was known affectionately by his many students simply as Guruji.” The website goes on to describe Jois as born in India and studied "the Vedas and Hindu rituals at the age of five."
Broyles told ABC News that the Ashtanga yoga being taught Encinitas kids is offensive. “The poses and positions are acknowledged by Ashtanga and Hindi yoga as forms of worship and prayers to Hindu deities. They have a spiritual and religious meaning behind them. It would be like a charismatic Christian organization funding classes in worship and praise.”
In another case in Utah, parents were upset that the local high school’s modernized version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night included cross-dressing and a same-gender kiss.
In Massachusetts, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by parents David and Tonia Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, who had objected to their children being taught to accept and endorse same-gender sexuality, reports Bob Unruh. Wolf ruled that the Christian youngsters need the teachings in order to be “engaged and productive citizens.” He ruled that it was unconstitutional to uphold “the rights of religious freedom and parental control over the upbringing of children.”
Doing so, he ruled, “would undermine teaching and learning” in class.
“Wolf’s ruling is every parent’s nightmare,” says the pro-family group Mass Resistance. “Wolf makes the absurd claim that normalizing homosexuality to young children is ‘reasonably related to the goals of