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Mass. School Fight Raises Some Questions

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When parents send their kids to – gulp – public school, they should really expect that the school will teach the state’s moral laws. For example, if you reside in a state in which gay marriage has been granted, i.e. Massachusetts, one should anticipate so-called gay issues coming up in the curriculum.

A group of parents in Massachusetts, however, accuse their children’s school of trying to brainwash them by teaching acceptance. The school, meanwhile, things it’s in their best interest to educate children on all kinds of romantic relationships.

The parents filed a suit last year against a Lexington, Massachusetts, school for “violating” their parental rights by educating their children on same-sex relationships. CNN reports:

Tonia and David Parker sued after their 5-year-old son brought home a book from kindergarten that depicted a gay family. David Parker was later arrested for refusing to leave his son’s school after officials would not agree to notify him when homosexuality was discussed in his son’s class.

Another Lexington couple, Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, joined the Parkers in the suit after a second-grade teacher read “King and King” to her class. The fairy tale tells the story of two princes falling in love.

Both couples claim Lexington school officials violated their parental rights to teach their own morals to their children.

Obviously the school’s not going to take this sitting down and they urged U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf to dismiss the charges. The school’s lawyer argues that it’s in the state’s “legitimate interest” for the school to teach diversity.

The case dates back to 2004, when the Parker’s son first brought home the so-called offensive book. The Parker’s rallied against the school, sending letters and emails to the principal. One such email reads thus:

It is one thing to endorse to not persecute/harm homosexuals/lesbians, it is another to teach young children implicitly that these values are acceptable. Some may maintain that if they can not present homosexual situations in school – this is a form of persecution and harm. To us- this is a very contrived argument. The real question is-do parents have the right to exclude/shield their children from these contrary values being pushed upon young children in elementary school.

Well, certainly you have the right, but we’re not sure it applies to public schools.

The debate brings back memories of a story we wrote on a few weeks ago on ex-gay supporters, PFOX and their successful bid to distribute ex-gay pamphlets at a Maryland school. The argument goes that public schools cannot discriminate against PFOX because they’re constitutionally required to include all viewpoints concerning sexual education.

The First Amendment Center has released the first consensus guidelines to help public schools develop sexual orientation policies. The new guidelines advise school officials to include the viewpoints of all participants in order to develop policies that promote fairness for all. According to Charles Haynes, a primary drafter of the guidelines and Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools is protected by the First Amendment and should be heard.

Now, this case in Massachusetts doesn’t really apply to sexual education, per se, but it seems to us that if a school is going to tell tales of love – and, really, which school doesn’t read fairy tales like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty – they should have to represent all forms of love, gay love included.

Judge Wolf seems to be just as confused as we are, because he has yet to issue a ruling.

By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Feb 8, 2007
Tagged: , , , , , ,
  • 4 Comments
    • Matt
      Matt

      While i’m all for being accepted. Whatever happened to the circulum in schools consisting of reading, writing, math, and history. Seems like these discussions should be kept at the university level where their parents can not interfere.

      Feb 8, 2007 at 2:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ColinATL
      ColinATL

      Matt, the book is a children’s story called “King & King.” This is reading. Totally appropriate for elementary school kids.

      Queerty, you misstated the law. You said:

      The argument goes that public schools cannot discriminate against PFOX because they’re constitutionally required to include all viewpoints concerning sexual education.

      This isn’t true. The Constitution is not this all encompassing. Rather, the requirement MAY be only that schools have a responsibility to provide all scientifically valid viewpoints. Otherwise, every crackpot organization could demand that their views on sex be taught. The PFOX/Montgomery County case had to do with fliers being handed out by outside organizations. If you allow one outside organization to distribute fliers, you can’t discriminate based on viewpoint. This has nothing to do with sex-ed curricula.

      Feb 8, 2007 at 2:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • martini-boy
      martini-boy

      If they don’t like the material related to sexuality (and love) being taught in a public school, could the parents not send their kid to a Catholic school instead, where they KNOW their particular morals will be upheld? I’m assuming they have Catholic schools in Massachusetts.

      Feb 8, 2007 at 6:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • a sociology student
      a sociology student

      That is not a reasonable option for every guardian in Massachusetts. If a poor, anti-gay family get stuck with a teacher who is FORCING pro-gay material on their students, are you REALLY going to deny said family the chance to either change teachers or read a different book?

      May 25, 2007 at 1:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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