At the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week by two sets of Lexington parents over the discussion of homosexuality in public elementary schools is the question: Do parents or public schools have the final say in deciding what morals, values, and principles should be taught to children, and at what age should those lessons take place?...The more serious question is not the legal one, but a matter of policy: Should schools do more to accommodate parents with traditional values?
[Joseph Robert and Robin Wirthlin] objected on April 6 after their son's second-grade teacher at the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School read to the class "King & King," a fairy tale that depicts two princes falling in love and marrying. A year earlier, David Parker, whose son was then in kindergarten at the same school, was arrested for trespassing when he refused to leave school grounds until administrators promised to excuse his son from classroom discussions about same-gender parents. Parker's son had brought home a ''diversity book bag" that included "Who's in a Family?" a book that shows pictures of same-sex parents and other types of families.
ADDED: I should note that the parents are not merely relying on constitutional rights, but on a Massachusetts statute that requires schools to notify parents about sex education lessons. Parents can have their children excluded. So there is a question about the scope of that state statute, which they are asking a federal court to interpret. Is teaching about family structure sex education? Is "Cinderella" sex education? If not, why is "King & King"? But the point of the lawsuit seems really to be to put pressure on the state legislature to expand the statutory law and clamp down on schools that are trying to present homosexuality in a positive light. That is an extremely important political dispute.
MORE: Here's the School Library Journal review of "King & King":
Grades 3-5--In this postmodern fractured fairy tale, a worn-out and badly beleaguered Queen is ready for retirement. After many hours of nagging, the crown prince, who "never cared much for princesses," finally caves in and agrees to wed in order to ascend the throne. Their search for a suitable bride extends far and wide, but none of the eligible princesses strikes the Prince's fancy, until Princess Madeleine shows up. The Prince is immediately smitten - with her brother, Prince Lee. The wedding is "very special," the Queen settles down on a chaise lounge in the sun, and everyone lives happily ever after. Originally published in the Netherlands, this is a commendable fledgling effort with good intentions toward its subject matter. Unfortunately, though, the book is hobbled by thin characterization and ugly artwork; the homosexual prince comes across as fragile and languid, while the dour, matronly queen is a dead ringer for England's Victoria at her aesthetic worst. Some of the details in the artwork are interesting, including the "crown kitty" performing antics in the periphery. However, that isn't enough to compensate for page after page of cluttered, disjointed, ill-conceived art. The book does present same-sex marriage as a viable, acceptable way of life within an immediately recognizable narrative form, the fairy tale. However, those looking for picture books about alternative lifestyles may want to keep looking for a barrier-breaking classic on the subject.AND: Here's a somewhat more detailed article about the lawsuit, quoting the complaint, which claims "due process rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments, as parents and guardians to direct the moral upbringing of their children." This is a very lightweight federal claim to hold the state claims in federal court. The state court ought to be interpreting that state statute, and the federal court should use its discretion to decline jurisdiction.