Judge upholds opt out denial
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch on Tuesday affirmed a tentative ruling denying a group of parents’ request to be allowed to opt their children out of elementary school lessons intended to curtail anti-gay bullying.
Judge Roesch said the lessons did not constitute health education, as the plaintiffs had contended. State law allows parents to opt their children out of health-related lessons. But it also mandates protection of the rights of students on the basis of sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, gender or religion, and Roesch ruled that the state Legislature didn’t intend for its mandates on health education to interfere with those protections.
Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the Pacific Justice Institute, which brought the case on behalf of the parents, said he plans to appeal. “We believe the court committed error and we intend to press forward until there is a reversal or Lesson 9 is removed from the school,” Snider said, referring to the district’s moniker for the lessons.
District officials did not wish to comment on the ruling. The School Board is slated to make a decision at its December 8 meeting on new lessons that would include additional lessons for students in grades 3-5 and a reading list to be created to address specific groups. Information on how to review the new lessons is on the district’s website.
Local blogger John Knox White, who is active in the campaign to halt efforts to recall three school board members who voted in favor of Lesson 9 in May, described a dramatic courtroom scene Tuesday.
“You can teach hate and then it’s health education?” Knox White quoted the judge as saying. “You can’t say I’m a bigot, so I don’t have to attend tolerance lessons!”
The recall, incidentally, is moving forward, proponent Kellie Wood told The Island last week. She wouldn’t say how far S.E.R.V.E. Alameda, the group responsible for the recall effort against Nielsen Tam, Ron Mooney and Tracy Jensen, had gotten in its signature collection efforts. The group’s deadline for collecting enough signatures to qualify for a ballot is December 29.
“We are moving forward. There’s no turning back,” Wood said.