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Friday, November 04, 2005 

Parental Rights and the Public Schools

Let me preface my post here by saying that I am a product of public school education. With the exception of my first two years of schooling, I attended public schools for all of my formidable years. I don't have a problem with the educational quality of public schools, per se, but I do have a problem with the increasingly liberal agenda of many public school educators. I think that we have come to a place in this country where many local governments feel that it is their duty to usurp the authority of parents in regard to their children. "After all," they think, "we are much better at teaching their children than their parents are." And what came down yesterday from the 9th District Court of Appeals, I believe, is a landmark decision which will continue to push public educators further down this path. Thanks to Justin Taylor at the Between Two Worlds Blog for posting this snippet from the majority opinion:

...there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students. Finally, we hold that the defendants' actions were rationally related to a legitimate state purpose....In summary, we hold that there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents "to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs" and that the asserted right is not encompassed by any other fundamental right. In doing so, we do not quarrel with the parents' right to inform and advise their children about the subject of sex as they see fit. We conclude only that the parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select.
Additionally, I found these paragraphs disturbing:
Although the parents are legitimately concerned with the subject of sexuality, there is no constitutional reason to distinguish that concern from any of the countless moral, religious, or philosophical objections that parents might have to other decisions of the School District -- whether those objections regard information concerning guns, violence, the military, gay marriage, racial equality, slavery, the dissection of animals, or the teaching of scientifically-validated theories of the origins of life. Schools cannot be expected to accommodate the personal, moral or religious concerns of every parent. Such an obligation would not only contravene the educational mission of the public schools, but also would be impossible to satisfy.

As the First Circuit made clear in Brown, once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, 15074 FIELDS v.PALMDALE SCHOOL DIST. their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished. The constitution does not vest parents with the authority to interfere with a public school's decision as to how it will provide information to its students or what information it will provide, in its classrooms or otherwise.
The main problem that I see here is that the 9th Circuit Court decided to not only rule against the parents in this situation, but to take the opportunity to set forth a precedent that states that parents have absolutely no right to be the exclusive provider of education regarding any subject that the state feels should be included in their curriculum (notice the subjects open to public educational curriculum in the above paragraph include "guns", "gay marriage" and evolution). This clears the way for the state to include any type of educational training in their curriculum without informing the parents of their intent. How did I arrive at that conclusion? Remember that this case was about the withholding of information to parents regarding questions of a sexual nature that would be asked to their children participating in a study aimed at "establish[ing] a community baseline measure of children's exposure to early trauma (for example, violence)." The problem the parents had was that while they were consented on the goals of the study, they were not given the details regarding what types of questions would be asked, several of which were of a sexual nature. So, what we have here is a court ruling that paves the way for school districts to teach whatever they desire to our children, without consulting parents or even giving them a heads-up in regards to the curriculum. Could this mean that even religiously informed views like those regarding same sex relationships could be usurped by the school systems? Where are the advocates of religious freedom on this one? Shouldn't Americans United For Separation of Church and State be up in arms? Is it still any surprise that Christians who are serious about giving their children an open-minded education no longer want to send them to public schools? And to think, the most controversial topic we discussed in high school was evolution, which our parents knew full well we were being taught. There is no telling to what a precedent like this could be applied.

Could this mean that even religiously informed views like thsoe [sic] regarding same sex relationships could be usurped by the school systems?

It sounds like that's exactly what this ruling could mean. I find this especially chilling for the same reason you do. Of course public schools have been the breeding grounds for the liberal-elitist attempt to remake our culture in their own image. That's not what disturbs me. What bothers me is that this ruling clearly establishes a legal precedent to the effect that schools can disregard parental conviction on religiously-informed issues (certainly sex ed falls into this category); at the same time, it strips parents of the right to prevent their children from being exposed to non-Christian teaching on those same religiously-informed topics.

Simply put, the public school has gained a right; parents have lost a right. There seems to be something fundamentally flawed there. I really don't think BP over at Mainstream would have a problem with this ruling. Actually, when someone challenges this ruling (which will happen--hopefully sooner rather than later), perhaps by the Christian Law Association or the Christian Legal Defense Fund, BP will probably see them as trying to reinstate a Christian worldview in the schools.

If this is the shape of things to come, my kids will be homeschooled.

Now that comments have been removed over at Mainstream site, I quickly just check to see what topics are being posted. What I see makes me think of a statement I once heard, If we were tried for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
How sad that so called Christian worldviews run so in sinc with the views of the world.

Hmmm? Anonymous, are you referring to the views over at Mainstream or here? I've got my own answer, but what are you saying?

Wisdomofthepages, I was not referring to this site. What I read at Mainstream is liberal political views and lots of criticism of fellow believers. I understand that feelings got hurt over 20 years ago, but forgiveness and healing should not have taken this long as I understand the Word.

Anonymous,
I gotcha.

The decision is disturbing, but it is not surprising. I have to remind myself that for the judges the constitution is as sacred a document as the scriptures are to believers.

Unfortunately, what I think will happen is that the Christian community will continue to become a "closed" community. More churches will open schools. We'll become more interested in protecting our family than influencing other families.

Our christian schools, christian radio, and christian bookstores are just the symptoms that the church has reverted to their own modern monastery in an attempt to keep out the world. The further we retreat the less like salt and light we really are.

Bishop Brian, Just wondering how many judicial opinions do you read. Personally, I read about 100-150 per week. Most of them don’t deal with constitutional issues, but of those probably about 20 or so do.

Now, you might not like the outcome in this case. (Heck, if I wanted to indoctrinate my kids into some religion that scored certain sexual activities, I would be angry, too.) But, you really don’t indicate that you actually read all opinions. Therefore, I think that you either 1) read the occasional one; or 2) repeat what people tell you is in there. In this time of global terrorism, we really can’t afford either course of behavior. Likewise, I think that a lot of the sex in America comes from people not reading legal opinions, but talking about them. So, I if I were you, I would blame myself, and realize that I forfeited my right to have the state individually tailor an educational program to my needs to indoctrinate my kids into my religion/

I like to tell people that the “text” of the “constitution” is “sacred.” It is a nice rhetorical device that people like to hear. But it means very little. Even if you don’t use extraneous tools of interpretation there are differing ways to interpret it, and most people want to import some other tool of interpretation into it, perhaps you differ on what one is best.

Oh, I am a very religious person.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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