Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Who's in a kindergartener's bookbag? 

I saw this story originally at Michelle Malkin's blog, but I haven't run with it in part because I can't figure out the parents' angle. But I find myself convinced by Wendy McElroy that the parents are in the right here.

The conflict began on Jan. 17, when Parker's then-5-year-old son brought home a Diversity Bookbag from kindergarten. Included was Robert Skutch's "Who's In a Family?" that depicts families headed by same-sex couples. Parker had wanted to decide for himself the timing and manner in which his son was introduced to the subject of homosexuality.

(The Bookbag is supposed to be a voluntary program but the Parkers knew nothing about it in advance.)

Parker immediately e-mailed the Estabrook school principal, Joni Jay. Parker expressed his belief that gay parents did not constitute "a spiritually healthy family"; he did not wish his son to be taught that a gay family is "a morally equal alternative to other family constructs."

Which, when I saw it, led me to ask "why should the government instruct otherwise?" That's not the government's business to decide morals. It's the parents'.

But the problem is larger than that. The law of Massachusetts states requires parental notification of instruction in sexuality, meaning that parents by law retain the right to instruct their children on sexual issues. The government has not seized away that right. Yet the Lexington school district said "We don't view telling a child that there is a family out there with two mommies as teaching about homosexuality," and "� that discussion of differing families, including gay-headed families, is not included in the parental notification policy."

I think where one comes down on this particular case depends on whether you think the parents' request -- notification in advance if same-sex issues are discussed, and removal of the child if conversation occurs spontaneously -- places such a high burden on the school district that it ends up reducing the speech rights of others. That is to say, I see it as a cost-benefit analysis and little more. If it infringes greatly on the rights of others, one has to tell the Parkers that the service cannot be provided and they should send the child to private school.

But then again, they won't get out of paying taxes to the district that left them behind.

(h/t: Reader jw.)