Two sets of parents in Lexington, Massachusetts are appealing a U.S. District Court dismissal of their claim that the local public school district violated their constitutional rights by teaching their children about families headed by same-sex parents. The District Court judge had said (PDF link):
Public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy. Diversity is a hallmark of our nation. It is increasingly evident that diversity includes differences in sexual orientation.
Bravo. He then added that the couples could always homeschool or send their children to private school, or ask the school to excuse their children when same-sex families are discussed in the classroom. They have no right, however, to dictate what the school district teaches. True enough, and I hope the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finds no less when this case comes before them.
In saying that parents could have their children excused during discussions of same-sex families, however, the District Court judge missed the fact that, as I wrote in February when the case was first heard:
The curriculum is only part of the picture. Even if the syllabus does not officially include same-sex families, children of same-sex families may be in the classroom. Does the far-right want to ban my son from talking about playing baseball with his mommy and momma? Will they bar him from bringing in a rainbow flag for show-and-tell? What about a photo of his family with their arms around each other? What if he attended his moms’ wedding during summer vacation? Is that a forbidden essay topic, or is it allowed as long as he doesn’t read it in front of the class like all of the other children? The argument extends to the many children with opposite-sex parents who may nevertheless have LGBT relatives. Banning “discussion of homosexuality” ultimately means banning many children from talking freely about their families, making them feel censored and segregated. . . .
[And again:] While it’s their prerogative if parents want their children excused from planned discussions of diversity and same-sex families, they’re not going to be able to zoom in and yank their children away every time my son mentions that he went to the park with his moms or brings in photos of our wedding for show and tell. It’s going to be harder and harder to compartmentalize discussion of same-sex families into neat, optional units of the curriculum. We’re not an abstraction; we’re part of the larger community, and our children are learning next to everyone else’s.
My son is starting school in Massachusetts in a week. With luck, he'll be there for another 14 years, more or less. I hope the only thing he ever feels he needs to hide are teenage zits.
(Crossposted on Mombian.)