Many of you followed last spring's story about the uproar by some conservatives when the Alameda, California school board decided to adopt an LGBT-inclusive safe-schools curriculum. Now comes a new ruling stating that because the diversity curriculum doesn't constitute health education, parents cannot opt their children out of it. Finally, a glimmer of understanding that teaching about LGBT people and families doesn't mean teaching about sex.
The ruling comes in response to a group of parents who filed a lawsuit over the district's refusal to excuse their children from attending the classes. The parents are supported by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute.
On Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch tentatively denied the parents' request. He said the lessons don't constitute health education, as the parents are arguing, and thus don't fall under the state legislature's has opt-out rules related to health lessons.
John Knox White has details of the proceedings over at Stop, Drop and Roll. He reports that Judge Roesch was persistent in trying to pin down Kevin Snider, the Pacific Justice Institute's General Counsel, on exactly how anti-bullying education is a part of Health Education:
Judge Roesch quickly stepped in to ask a question that he would return to over and over again. If a hypothetical teacher presents the question "A nurse has 30 stethoscopes and gives 5 to a doctor, how many stethoscopes does the nurse have?" is that health education?
Answer: No because it doesn't meet the criteria of the Health Education Code.
He rephrased it later as "A mother nurse has 30 stethoscopes and gives 5 to her brother, a doctor, how many stethoscopes does the nurse have?" now it's dealing with both family and medicine, is it health ed?"
Again, no. In the end, Snider similarly failed to prove that the anti-bullying curriculum was part of health ed. He did, however, reveal what the real fear is here , claiming, "Lesson 9 puts one group above all others and therefore it's indoctrination into LGBT lifestyles."
Judge Roesch was not swayed. He also asserted that allowing opt-out would go against California's educational policy of providing equal rights and opportunities to all persons:
The result would be that parents who object to instruction in tolerance of individuals or families of other races or of mixed races, of persons with disabilities, or of persons or families of other races, ethnicity, or religion, would have the right to have their children excused from instruction on those topics. This result could not have been contemplated by the Legislature, since it substantially hinders the ability of schools to implement California's policy under Education Code section 233 to provide equal rights and opportunities in public schools to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, or religion.
The school board can now move ahead to approve an anti-bullying reading list at its meeting on December 8.
The case now goes to appeals court.